27 Feb 2014

The three-and-a-half-year-old reptiles, the biggest of which measures over two metres in length, have moved to Chester from Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic.

The rare type of carnivorous lizard will be housed in the zoo’s Islands in Danger exhibit.

Curator of invertebrates and lower vertebrates, Dr Gerardo Garcia, said:

“The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world with a deadly bite which enhances its global reputation.

“The arrival of this new duo is fantastic news. They are stunning creatures and wonderful ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.”

Having initially arrived without names, the male will be called Jantan and the female Ora – titles given to them by the zoo’s conservation partners from the Komodo Survival Programme, a group of specialists working to protect the species on the Indonesian islands of Flores and Komodo.

In the wild, Komodo dragons are classified as vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Their numbers have declined due to widespread habitat loss, a reduction in prey species and conflict with humans.

Dr Garcia added:

“Without conservation efforts to protect them, these giant lizards face a very uncertain future.

“We want to show people how incredible they are and want visitors to understand how important it is that they support the work that we’re doing to conserve them in their native range.

“It’s also vitally important that our keepers get to work closely with the species. The intensive care they give these animals and all of the information, skills and things they learn on a daily basis when working with them here, can be transferred to the field and could be crucial in terms of protecting them in the wild.”

Komodo dragons live on a diet of large mammals, reptiles and birds and can grow up to 10ft-long and weigh up to 13 stones.

In 2007 Chester Zoo made international headlines, which led to calls from puzzled scientists, researchers and conservationists from all over the world when Flora – a Komodo dragon which then lived at the zoo – reproduced having never named mated; a process called parthenogenesis. It was the first time this had ever been witnessed in the species and has since helped humans to gain a much deeper understanding of the remarkable animals.


Komodo dragon facts

• Komodo dragons are the largest living lizard and can grow up to 3m and weigh around 80kg • They live on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami, and Padar (not seen here since the 1970’s but reintroduction is a possibility) • Their habitat consists of tropical monsoon forest, palm savannah and grasslands • Other than humans, it is the top predator in its environment – something that is very unusual for a reptile • The reptiles live on a diet of large mammals, reptiles and birds, as well as domestic animals such as chickens, ducks, cats and dogs, pigs, goats • Eggs take nine months to hatch • Threatened through habitat loss from competition with man for food, woodland clearance and fires as well as occasional poaching and persecution • Chester Zoo supports Wae Wuul Nature Reserve on Flores, one of the Indonesian isles where Komodo Dragons live in the wild. There an important conservation project includes educating people about their importance, monitoring dragon numbers, warden patrols and protecting the local environment which is home to a wealth of animal and plant life.