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Komodo dragons

Saving a species

ABQ BioPark Komodo dragons Sunny and Nancy have quite the responsibility—they’re here to help save their own species from extinction.

Nancy came to the BioPark from the Miami Metro Zoo in 2002. Sunny was hatched in Honolulu in 2000, and spent 10 years in the San Diego Zoo before arriving at the BioPark in October 2015.

The two are part of a Species Survival Plan and zookeepers are hoping they will produce hatchlings to help conserve a wild population of their kind, which is in peril.  

Komodo dragons—the world’s largest living lizards—are found on about five islands in the Lesser Sunda region of Indonesia. Known locally as “ora” (this means “land crocodile” in the local Mangarrai dialect), Komodo dragons are the national animal of Indonesia.

However, a shortage of females, as well as poachers, human encroachment, loss of prey and natural disasters has led to this species’ decline. Because Komodo dragons are only found on a few islands, Josh Davis, senior reptile and amphibian keeper, said it wouldn’t take much to wipe out the already-endangered population (think natural disaster like a tsunami or earthquake) and that’s why the breeding program is so important.

The adult Komodo dragon is a voracious and opportunistic carnivore that preys on mammals like boar and buffalo. At the ABQ BioPark, they eat a diet of smaller prey such as mice, rats, fish and quail. But they are also opportunists—Nancy has been known to eat salad and pumpkin.

An ambush predator, the Komodo dragon uses about 100 sharp, back-curved teeth to inflict a deadly bite—Davis compared their teeth to a steak knife. These lethal choppers are constantly being replaced throughout a dragon’s life. In fact, Davis said he constantly discovers lost teeth in the Komodo dragon exhibit.

Fun facts:

  • Females have been observed to reproduce using a form of asexual reproduction called parthenogenesis—female dragons lay a clutch of unfertilized eggs and hatchlings develop inside these eggs. These new hatchlings are not genetically identical to their mothers. Parthenogenesis typically happens during specific environmental conditions, specifically an abundance of food and a shortage of males.
  • Komodo dragons can eat up to 80 percent of their body weight at one time and a large meal could last them a year because of their slow metabolism.
  • If a dragon’s prey does not die immediately from an attack, it usually will do so within 24 hours due to blood poisoning and loss of blood. The dragon will often follow the wounded prey for miles and days until the victim is too weak to go on. It will also use its forked tongue to locate its dead prey from up to 5 miles away. 

Our Actions Matter

  1. Help increase awareness by talking about the endangered Komodo dragon with others.
  2. Sponsor the ABQ BioPark’s Komodo dragons.