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Denver Hatches Dragons in Time for Halloween!

As Halloween draws near, Denver Zoo is hatching dragons! Komodo Dragons, that is. Four have already hatched and four more eggs remain in an incubator. The hatchlings began emerging from their shells a week ago. They are all behind-the-scenes now, but visitors should be able to see them in Tropical Discovery’s nursery in time for the zoo’s Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo.



A Komodo Dragon hatchling emerges from its shell (Below)


Photo Credit: Dave Parsons/Denver Zoo

“This is a very significant event as Denver Zoo is only the second zoo in North America to hatch dragons this year and the only zoo in the world to hatch dragons on three different occasions,” says Denver Zoo Curator of Reptiles and Fishes Rick Haeffner. “Denver Zoo is committed to being a leader in captive management and reproduction of this magnificent, endangered giant lizard.”

The last time Denver Zoo hatched Komodo dragons was 2003. Besides the most recent hatchlings, Denver Zoo has three other Komodos in its collection. The hatchlings’ genders aren’t yet known, but they all measure about 16 inches from the tip of their noses to the ends of their tails and weigh about 80 grams.

Komodo dragons are the world’s largest species of lizard. They can grow to be 10-feet long and weigh over 250 pounds. They reside on five Indonesian islands: Komodo, Flores, Rinca, Gila Montang and Gila Dasami.

They have a vicious bite as well. They have about 60 razor sharp, serrated teeth that can reach up to one inch long. Lost or damaged teeth are constantly replaced. Dragons can go through four or five sets of teeth in their lifetime. Their teeth allow dragons to tear off large chunks of flesh which they swallow whole. If the prey does not die from the initial attack, the dragon follows the injured animal until it dies due to blood loss or infection. Komodo dragon saliva contains 50 different strains of toxic bacteria that cause deadly infections in the prey animal.

Komodo dragons are classified as endangered, with between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals remaining in the wild. They are also rare in the world’s zoos. As an island species, they are more likely candidates for extinction than mainland species due to increased vulnerability for disease, human encroachment, deforestation, competition for food and natural disasters.