Enter the Dragon
Monday 12 July 2004
Komodo dragons arrive at London Zoo as part of a conservation programme
Today, Monday 12 July 2004, The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) launched its international conservation programme for Komodo dragons with Sir David Attenborough officially opening a new state-of-the-art dragon's lair at London Zoo.
With razor sharp teeth and toxic saliva that can fell a buffalo, Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizards and a formidable predator, but despite their strength their future is threatened in the wild by habitat and prey loss as a result of agricultural encroachment.
It is estimated that as few as 500 breeding females dragons survive on the islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca and two other tiny island in the Lesser Sundas archipelago south-east of Java, in Indonesia.
"Without conservation efforts to protect them, these giant lizards face a very uncertain future," said Richard Gibson, ZSL's Curator of Herpetology. "As the top predator they are in conflict with man over prey species and threatened by habitat loss."
Working closely with other conservation organisations as a part of the global species recovery programme, ZSL's 'Dragon Quest' has three main components which make up its conservation action plan;
- To participate in the international breeding programme in captivity
- To carry out vital conservation work in the field
- Public education and mobilisation in support of the Komodo dragon
As part of the Dragon Quest, ZSL is carrying out important field survey and census projects on the island of Flores in collaboration with other dragon experts. Richard Gibson will go to Indonesia as part of a five man team to verify unconfirmed sightings of Komodo dragons in Eastern Flores. He will also investigate the genetic viability and populations of the dragons found on smaller islands and assist in training National Park staff in other surveying and conservation techniques to ensure that dragon conservation continues in Indonesia.
The new dragons at London Zoo are part of the European Conservation Breeding Programme. Visitors will be able to get face to face with the dragons through an unbroken sweep of 20 metres of dragon proof glass. The enclosure has been naturally landscaped to mimic a dry river bed, complete with lush vegetation and even a gory replica of their prey in the form of a model of a deer carcass.
For further details
Please contact ZSL PR Office:
Debbie Curtis 020 7449 6363 or 07889 043843
Notes to Editors
Images of dragons available and a photocall is being held on Sunday 11 July.
- Largest living lizard can be up to 3m and weigh 100kg
- Only lizard to hunt and kill prey larger than itself and larger than it can swallow whole
- It is the top predator in its environment (other than man) which is unusual for a reptile
- Komodo dragons prey on snakes and lizards (including smaller Komodo dragons) domestic animals such as chickens, ducks, cats and dogs, pigs, goats as well as deer and water buffalo. Has been known to attack and eat people
- Komodo dragon saliva contains over 50 species of bacteria and is virulently toxic. Dragons kill large prey by rushing from ambush along game trails, biting at legs and tendons, maiming the animal and then trailing the injured animal until septicaemia sets in and kills it
- Baby dragons live in trees for first 2-4years to avoid being eaten by larger dragons
- Eggs take 9 months to hatch
- Skin is scaly like other reptiles but each scale has a small point of bone, called an osteoderm, making it very tough, like armour plating
- Threatened through habitat loss from competition with man for food, woodland clearance and fires as well as occasional poaching and persecution
- Males demonstrate ritual combat during breeding season by standing on their hind legs and wrestling
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