The Australian Reptile Park are celebrating a historic achievement today, with three Komodo dragons hatching – an Australian first. Komodo dragons are the largest living lizard species and considered modern-day dinosaurs. In unbelievable footage captured and released this morning by the Australian Reptile Park, one of the baby Komodo dragons can be seen hatching from the egg, an extremely RARE sighting and something reminiscent from a blockbuster Hollywood dinosaur movie.
After overseeing the potentially dangerous mating process for both dragon and keeper, seven months of incubation and finally the hatching of the eggs – the Australian Reptile Park has become the first zoo in Australia to successfully breed and hatch Komodo dragons.
Keepers were required to retrieve the eggs to ensure the ultimate chance of survival. A venomous bite from a Komodo dragon is potentially life-threatening with keepers risked life and limb to retrieve the eggs. With such a long incubation period (7 months), the eggs were under lock and key at the Australian Reptile Park with keepers keeping a close eye on the eggs and ensuring the temperature was at optimal level and constantly checking on the eggs for their viability and health.
This incredible achievement of Komodo dragon eggs hatching marks an Australian first as no other zoo, sanctuary or facility have successfully bred Komodo dragons in the country. This means positive signs for the breeding program and an important step for the endangered species. Presently, captive breeding is not needed for the wild population, however building captive populations are imperative incase a sudden decline is seen in the wild.
The three newly-hatched dragons have passed all initial health checks in their first week of life. All are weighing in between 112g-116g, measuring between 40cm in length and eating their first meals of insects – all great indicators of excellent health.
Head Reptile Keeper, Jake Meney, said, “A lot of work goes into the breeding of Komodo dragons. These are two animals that could potentially kill each other and do some serious damage to us keepers in the process. It was a bit touch and go during the initial introductions, however our female became receptive and the two mated successfully which led to the hatching of these three perfect baby dragons.”
Mr Meney continued, “The next stage is ensuring the successful raising of the hatchlings. We have plans on moving them onto display in a purpose-built home for them soon and keeping up their feeding routine and regular health checks. They grow pretty quickly – within their first year, we are hoping for them to reach almost a metre in length and one kilo and commence training to walk in the main park area to meet visitors, just like their parents do.”
The Komodo dragon is a living dinosaur and the world’s largest lizard. Komodo dragons can grow up to 3-4 metres in length and weigh over 100kg. Found on the Indonesian island of Komodo, there is a population of about 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons in the wild. The Komodo dragon is a monitor; however, their forked tongue gives them a dragon-like appearance. They are carnivorous predators but will eat just about anything.
The status of the Komodo dragon in the wild is Vulnerable, which is the status level before endangered, on the IUCN red list. Their numbers are declining because of human encroachment, poaching, natural disasters, and a shortage of egg laying females. Breeding programs, like that of the Australian Reptile Park, are of the utmost importance.