Komodo dragons arrive
Monday 2 August 2004
With razor sharp teeth and toxic saliva that can fell a buffalo, London Zoo's exciting new Komodo dragons are formidable predators, as Sir David Attenborough discovered when he officially opened the new Komodo Dragon House on Monday 12th July
Sir David was taken on a tour of the Zoo which culminated with him meeting our new 2.2 metre long male Komodo dragon face to face. In his opening speech, Sir David expressed how impressed he was with the new exhibit and how important he felt zoos were in conserving endangered species such as the Komodo dragon and inspiring future conservationists.
He recalled his first encounter with a dragon 50 years ago when he embarked on an expedition to capture a dragon from the Komodo Islands as part of the BBC's programme Zoo Quest. Sir David went on to meet many of the Zoo staff some of whom had worked with him many years ago on the BBC programmes and many of which he had inspired to get involved in conservation.
Sir David Attenborough meeting the Komodo dragons at London Zoo
Come and get face to face with the dragon prowling his new state-of-the-art dragon's lair and enjoy panoramic views through an unbroken sweep of more than 20 metres of dragon proof glass.
The dragon's new home been naturally landscaped to mimic a dry river bed, complete with lush vegetation and sounds of Indonesian birds and of course, the gruesome remains of his last meal - a gory model of a deer carcass.
The new dragons at London Zoo are part of the European Conservation Breeding Programme.
"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."
- The 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.