Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo offered their best felizardtations to Komodo dragon Ganas this week - at a special birthday feast.
Ganas, who will be 10 years old on Saturday 3 February, was given a meaty treat of beef fillet to commemorate the big day, with the specially wrapped gift being wolfed down by the 40kg lizard.
ZSL Dragon keeper Joe Capon explains: “Komodo dragons have adapted to go months without food in the wild, and we replicate their eating habits here at ZSL London Zoo, which means Ganas’ last lunch was 14 days ago.
“Ganas gets fed a big meaty meal around twice a month, alongside some smaller enriching treats in between, which we hide around his enclosure - this encourages him to use his incredible sense of smell to sniff out his food as he would his natural prey.”
Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) use their tongues to smell instead of their noses. “Like snakes, they flick their forked tongues out to taste the air, before drawing them back to the roof of their mouths, where special receptors called Jacobsons analyse microscopic molecules in the air. They can sniff out a potential meal from up to six miles away.”
Ganas moved from Randers Zoo in Denmark to ZSL London Zoo in 2015 to take up residence in the Attenborough Komodo Dragon House, where he lives alongside the Zoo’s eight Giant Galapagos tortoises.
Named after the island of Komodo in their native Indonesia, the dragons - the largest and heaviest lizards in the world - have survived on Earth for millions of years, but are now classified as Endangered by the IUCN due to habitat loss.
“Ganas has been with us for three years and is a firm favourite with both our visitors and keepers,” said Joe. “Fresh raw meat might not be what we’d want to find when unwrapping our birthday pressies, but Ganas was very happy with his gifts.”
Visit Ganas and 18,000 other animals at ZSL London Zoo this half term, where you can role-play being a Zoo vet at the award-winning Vets in Action experience.