ZooTampa at Lowry Park has welcomed 3 female and 3 male endangered Komodo dragon hatchlings, which has helped bolster this endangered species’ population.1 According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species,2 there are less than 1,400 Komodo dragons in the wild as their biggest threats are climate change and agricultural expansion which is causing loss of habitat.
Fun facts about Komodo dragons
Here’s what to know about the largest lizards on Earth2,3:
- They reach up to 10 ft long and 200 lbs
- They can run up to 12 miles per hour
- They have a powerful venomous bite
- They are found natively only in the islands of Komodo National Park in Indonesia
- They live in habitats ranging from tropical island forests and beaches
- They use their forked tongues rather than nose for their keen sense of smell
- They have tails as long as their bodies and are strong swimmers
The Komodo dragon hatchlings (Photo courtesy of ZooTampa).
“These first-time additions at the zoo are a big win for conservation,” said Dan Costell, associate curator of herpetology at ZooTampa.1 “It was a long process, and we are excited that these additions to a key endangered species are finally here.”
After a 9-month incubation, the dragons started hatching on August 21, 2023, to mother Aanjay, age 13, and father Titus, age 12. The breeding was recommended through the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) program. “Being a part of the Species Survival Plan program, ZooTampa has a shared commitment to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied reptile population,” Costell added. “Komodo dragons are one of 99 species that we are working to save and protect at the zoo as part of the SSP.”
The herpetology and veterinary teams monitored the eggs by utilizing candling imaging and genetic testing to determine if the eggs were viable.1 Through a blood sample from the egg, they discovered the sex of the dragons before they were hatched. Each hatchling weighed around 100 g and was 10 in long.
The baby Komodo dragons will be behind the scenes getting acclimated to their surroundings and growing before the public can see them later this fall.
- ZooTampa hatches endangered Komodo dragons for first time, boosting numbers of the world’s largest lizard. News release. ZooTampa. September 13, 2023. Accessed September 15, 2023. https://zootampa.org/zootampa-hatches-endangered-komodo-dragons-for-first-time-boosting-numbers-of-the-worlds-largest-lizard
- Komodo dragon. International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed September 15, 2023. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22884/123633058
- 10 facts about Komodo dragons. GoEco. Accessed September 15, 2023. https://www.goeco.org/article/10-fact-about-komodo-dragons