MEMPHIS, TENN. On October 8, Memphis Zoo staff successfully hatched a Komodo dragon baby for the first time in Zoo history. The baby was born after 222 days of incubation and weighed approximately 99 grams at birth.
“This was the culmination of over a decade of hard work by the animal staff,” says Dr. Steve Reichling, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians. “This hatchling is the start of what we expect will be a very successful Komodo dragon breeding program.”
The Memphis Zoo’s komodo dragon exhibit, The Dragon’s Lair, opened in July
1998 and houses three adult komodo dragons: one female, “Norberta” and two males, “Jeff” and “Voltron.”
Eight-year-old Norberta laid a clutch of eggs in late February. Out of eight specimens, only one egg was fertile. The paternity of the baby dragon has not yet been determined, as Norberta spent time with both males prior to laying her eggs. It is also possible for female komodo dragons to fertilize their own eggs through a process known as parthenogenesis. This form of reproduction has been documented several times in captive dragons.
“We’ll keep the baby until it measures about three to four feet in length,” says Reichling. “Then, we will most likely send it to another institution based on Species Survival Plan recommendations from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”
The paternity, as well as the sex, of the baby Komodo dragon will be determined via DNA testing before the end of the year. Zookeepers are waiting to name the baby until it is determined whether the hatchling is male or female.
Komodo dragons are native to Indonesia and are considered to be the world’s largest species of lizard. Adults can grow to be more than 10 feet long, weigh up to 250 pounds and can live up to 30 years in the wild.
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