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The original “hall monitor”

Hi everyone! Since you aren’t able to visit him right now, I wanted to share some facts about Rinca, our Komodo dragon. This highly intelligent animal is 9 years old, currently weighs 100 pounds, and is a total ham around our Herpetology Team. So today I’d like to talk more about Komodo dragons! This blog will be filled with all kinds of fun facts, but I’ll make sure it doesn’t DRAG ON too long!

Komodo dragons are the largest monitor lizards in the modern world, with males reaching an average of around 8 to 9 feet in length. They are native to Komodo Island, as well as the surrounding islands, located in Indonesia. The vegetation growth on the island is largely dry, open grass-woodland savanna with various patches of tropical rainforest, deciduous monsoon forest and mangrove. So much variety!

While adult dragons are heavy and exclusively terrestrial, baby Komodo dragons will spend the first few years of their lives up in trees. They do this for two reasons. First, babies will find more of what they need to eat up in trees such as bugs, small mammals, birds and eggs. The second reason is to stay off the “menu” of an adult dragon, as they are not picky about what they eat or how fresh it may or may not be, but I won’t CARRION too much about those details! Some babies have even been known to cover themselves in animal feces when on the ground to help mask their scent from adult predators. YUCK!

Komodo dragons are ectothermic, dependent on their surrounding environment to maintain necessary body heat. To help regulate these temperatures, adult dragons have been known to dig massively deep burrows that can be as much as 9 feet wide! These burrows will stay cooler in the day and warmer at night, helping dragons conserve energy when they sleep.

For most dragons, their tail is roughly half the total length of their body. There are two reasons why a Komodo dragon’s tail is important to him. Can you guess? The first reason is because it allows them to be excellent swimmers! The second reason is because their tail is their number-one defense mechanism against anyone and anything that gets too close for comfort. When a dragon has reached several feet in length, one whip of its tail can potentially cause significant damage to skin and/or bone. What happens if a dragon tail whips another dragon? That’s easy! Dragons are covered in a special bony armor plating called osteoderms that help protect them from receiving too much damage from a blow. WOW! Best suit of armor EVER! Despite all that extra layering, Komodo dragons can run up to 13 miles per hour! Look out behind you!

There are so many more facts that I am not sharing in this blog, so once the Zoo does reopen, look for me so we can keep talking about how Komodo dragons are some of the most amazing creatures in the known world! Hope to see you soon!
Sam J.
Keeper III, Herpetology

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl