Prague, Realwonderoftheworld.com – The first breeding of Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) in the Prague zoo.
Komodo dragon – the biggest lizard of the world is an attractive species. Its exhibit is a matter of prestige, nevertheless, long-term keeping and breeding are sporadic and husbandry methods are still developing. Contrastingly to most other species of animals kept in advanced zoos, Komodo dragons have the tendency to die long before the supposed lifespan in the wild. EEP of this species registered several significant successes in the past years (1st reproduction on the Canary islands in 2004 and the hatching of the parthenogenetic youngsters in the zoos in London and Chester), but at the same time it was also affected by serious losses and so in the spring of 2006 there were only two adult females within EAZA institutions (Chester and Prague). As the situation was critical, a workshop was summoned to Rotterdam. Apart from the discussion on the husbandry conditions and metabolic problems, the importance of the Prague couple was highlighted there, as they could possibly become the desired founders of a high value for EEP.
When preparing Komodo dragons exhibit in the pavilion of Indonesian jungle in 2004 we bore in mind the negative experience from various zoos and we were trying hard to avoid the risky factors according to our experience and judgement. Here are the most important characteristics of the facility:
- The enclosure is very warm. The battery of 10 radiators of the total output of 20 000 watts emitting infrared light provides ambient temperature in the range of 35-45°C (50°C at the hottest places). Only the corners are cooler.
- There is suitable light. The pavilion has got roof of glass and the exhibit is oriented to the southwest, UVB light that conditions the right metabolism of calcium is provided by two 300W Osram Ultra Vitalux lamps.
- The facility is vertically structured and there is a large pool. The enclosure for two dragons has got 105 m2 and the space is vertically structured into 5 levels with the total elevation of 210 cm and so lizards when moving have to overcome the steps all the time. The water ditch is 160 cm deep and 13.5 m long and the dragons when exploring their territory use the pool for another beneficial activity, which is swimming.
- There are two ways of separating the animals. As the adult dragons are often aggressive to each other, the enclosure has got two caves (4 m2 each) for fast separation and there are also feet for bamboo poles and the facility can be in 20 minutes divided into two.
Based on the discussions in EEP there are two important factors in the animals’ maintenance that activate them and limit the undesired body reserves:
- The feeding is intermittent and irregular in the “feast and fast” regime. The dragons get once in three or four weeks half a goat or sheep each, including the viscera, fur and bones. In the weeks after the feeding their agility and moving activities are on the increase.
- Exercises using the white-painted target.
The pair of Komodo dragons came to Prague as a present of the Indonesian president to the Czech president on the 26th Nov 2004 from Taman Safari Park Bogor. The courting and mating took place in July 2006 and both animals were four years old then. We also registered the activity leading to the laying of eggs on 4th Sept 2006 but we were not able to find the clutch. So we installed cameras above the facility and when watching the night activities on 28th March 07 we found out that the female dug a hole through the concrete floor covered by sand. Having examined the created cavity (more than 1 meter deep) we found five eggs deposited in the humid soil of the temperature 32°C. The eggs (in 207´th day of their incubation) weighed 220-276 grams and were cracked and two of them contained dead embryos. The other kept developing in the conditions of the incubator (30°C) and from 16th to 25th April (i.e. after 224-233 days of incubation and 18-27 days after being deposited in the incubator) 3 healthy juveniles hatched. They weighed 104, 129 and 125 grams and measured 43.9, 45.9 and 44.6 cm. As the colourful young animals live in the trees we put them after the hatching to a high terrarium (110x60x80 cm) with many plants and branches. The 300W Osram Ultra Vitalux lamp is the source of light. Approximately after a week they started to accept food consisting of smaller mice and locusts and their development is still normal.
Despite the fact that the first breeding success of Komodo dragons in the Prague zoo made us very happy, we do not overestimate it. We consider it to be the first sign that the conditions are good and we hope that this will be confirmed by regular reproduction activity of the lizards and namely by their healthy development and naturally long life.
We would like to thank our colleagues from the zoo in Pilsen for all their experience they shared with us and also for their much-appreciated help with the sonographic examination of the Komodo dragons.
The curator of reptiles in the Prague zoo
Taken from Zoopraha.cz