|March 19, 2012 - The first-ever Komodo dragon to
call Knoxville Zoo home will be making her public
debut on Monday, March 19, and zoo staff expects
she will cause quite a "komodotion".
Khaleesi, a 19-month-old Komodo dragon, recently
relocated from Zoo Atlanta to Knoxville. Komodo
dragons are the largest lizards in the world, and while
she currently weighs in at around eight pounds and
measures approximately four feet in length, she can
easily grow to 80 pounds and 8 feet in length when
she matures. Komodo dragons are well-known for their ability to take down large prey such as deer and
pigs due to the virulent strains of bacteria in their saliva, which infects their prey when bitten. These
strains of bacteria are more than likely the result of feeding regularly on carrion in their native habitats, and
Komodo dragons who reside in zoos do not have this characteristic. Herpetologists have also recently
begun to suspect that they possess a very primitive venom delivery system.
Komodo dragons are vulnerable in their native range, with only an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 individuals
remaining on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Gili Dasmi in the Indonesian
archipelago in Southeast Asia.
"Komodo dragons are one of those animals that every professional zoo herpetologist has on their wish list
to work with some day," says Phil Colclough, curator of herpetology. "She is highly intelligent, and
responds to each staff members as an individual. We really look forward to watching her grow and develop
along with our visitors as the years go by. She is just a youngster now, but you can tell by the way that she
carries herself that she knows what kind of "reptile royalty' she really is."
Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville's largest year-round attraction. Located off exit 392A from Interstate 40, the
zoo is open every day except Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of
Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being,
ethics, conservation, and education. Currently, the zoo is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until
4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Admission and ticket sales stop onehour
before the zoo closes. Next-day admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call
865-637-5331 or visit www.knoxvillezoo.org.