Monday, October 22, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Komodo Dragon

Did you know that dragons really do exist? Don't believe me? Well, one of our best friends at the San Diego Zoo is a dragon. His name is Sonny and he is a Komodo dragon.

Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizard and grow to be up to 10 feet long. That's one ginormous lizard or should I say dragon? Komodo dragons move very slowly, but their keen sense of smell (they can smell prey up to a mile away) allows these animals to hunt with precise skill. Unlike most lizards, the Komodo dragon is a carnivore. The bigger the better - feasting on prey like wild pigs, water buffalo and deer. You might wonder how this is possible for a lizard. Well, the Komodo dragon has a secret weapon - besides razor sharp claws and teeth, theses guys carry over 50 strains of bacteria in their saliva. All they need is one bite. Once bitten, the prey will usually die within 24 hours of blood poisoning. So even if the prey happens to get away, the Komodo dragon will follow at a leisurely pace and wait for the animal to die.

Sonny is 12 years old and came from the Honolulu Zoo when he was only 6 years old. Some people may think he lives a lonely life, but Komodo dragons are solitary animals, so he is quite happy to have that big exhibit all to himself. Ever since Dylan was a toddler, Sonny has been a favorite. We actually consider him to be part of the family. Strange I know, but some things just can't be explained. Sonny is always one of the first friends we say hello to at the zoo - and yes, we talk to him.

Even though the Komodo dragon appears to be unstoppable, they are listed as an endangered species. Komodo dragons are only found on four islands in Indonesia: Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, and Flores. The species is fairly stable with a wild population of about 3,000, but several factors are hurting the Komodo's survival rate. There are very few female dragons laying eggs, human poaching, habitat loss, and humans hunting their prey are leaving a scarce amount of food for the Komodo dragon to eat.

In their natural habitat, Komodo dragons are top predator. They have no natural enemies - except for humans. With a lifespan of about 50 years, these dragons deserve to remain on this planet holding the title of most feared lizard.

Sonny and Dylan - friends for life. 

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