Bronx, NY – December 9, 2021 – Six Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) have hatched at the Bronx Zoo, the first time this species has successfully bred in the 122-year history of the zoo.
Kevin Torregrosa © Bronx Zoo/WCS
The successful breeding is the result of years of work by the zoo’s Herpetology Department staff. Keepers have to carefully monitor the adult Komodos when they are paired for mating as courtship behaviors can sometimes become aggressive.
After a successful introduction, the pair of Komodos bred in March 2021, and the female laid a clutch of eggs in April. The eggs were placed in an incubator where they were carefully monitored for approximately seven months before they hatched in November.
“This is an important achievement for zoo staff and a significant milestone for the Bronx Zoo,” said Don Boyer, Curator of Herpetology at the Bronx Zoo. “Komodo dragons are one of the planet’s most fascinating species and these hatchlings represent a hopeful future for the species. They will be wonderful ambassadors for their wild counterparts as they help us raise awareness about conservation needs.”
The hatching of these Komodos is an outcome of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding and management program administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain genetic diversity and demographic stability in zoo populations. Boyer writes more on the significance of the hatching in a WCS Wild View photo blog HERE.
The Bronx Zoo opened the Komodo dragon exhibit in Zoo Center in 2014, which marked the first time the species was housed in the zoo since the 1950s. The adult Komodos can be seen in Zoo Center, while some of the new hatchlings are on exhibit in the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles.
Komodo dragons are the world’s largest living lizard species. As adults they can weigh more than 150 lbs and measure up to 10 feet in length. They are native to the eastern Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca, Padar, Gili Motang, and Nusa Kode.
Their diet consists of large and small mammals including deer and buffalo, birds, eggs, and carrion. They will also feed on smaller Komodos. Efficient predators, they can consume up to 80 percent of their body weight in one feeding.
Komodos have sharp, serrated teeth that inflict serious wounds. While larger prey species like buffalo and deer are often not killed immediately, these huge lizards can track their dying prey with a highly developed sense of smell, flicking their tongues to pick up scents and track their quarry for distances of up to six miles.
The species is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Some estimates indicate there are fewer than 2,500 Komodo dragons remaining in the wild, with possibly as few as 350 breeding females.