Going Wild: Komodo Dragon exhibit at Honolulu Zoo

By Ashley Moser
Published On: Mar 14 2014 07:50:00 PM HST
Going Wild Komodo dragon
HONOLULU -

The Komodo dragon is one of the world's most feared lizards, but local trainers are changing the way we view the carnivores.

Komodo dragons are native to Indonesian. They can get up to 10 feet long and weigh more than a hundred pounds.

"Komodo dragons are a threatened species," said Honolulu Zoo Animal Keeper Rebecca Choquette. "They live on very few islands in Indonesia. There are roughly 350 breeding females and they don't breed every year. So that's a very small population there."

Here in the Hawaiian Islands trainers have raised two females at the Honolulu Zoo.

"We raised those babies since the time, practically that they came out of the egg. So they are unusually used to humans in general and their keepers in particular because of that," said Choquette.

The lizards are carnivores, so they ambush live prey with a stealthy approach. They are known for taking down and consuming animals as large as horses. That makes the interaction between human and this lizard rare. Keepers know how lucky they are and say it is enriching.

"They are very intelligent; much more so than say your average snake. I really enjoy working with them," said Choquette.

Komodo dragons are the largest of the monitor lizards. One lizard named Mo'onui sheds in patches unlike snakes where they shed all at once. This helps Mo'onui so she does not need to bathe.

Keepers say if the lizards look a little scruffy with skin hanging off, they will occasionally give them a helping hand.

"If they have a big and unsightly patch of skin we will sometimes help them shed it off, help them remove it," said Choquette.

Animal keepers experience an interaction only a few in the world can say they have successfully completed while remaining in one piece.

Honolulu Zoo officials say they are opening up a new Reptile and Amphibian complex next year to house Mo'onui and her other lizard friends.

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