There is now a dragon at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park. The six-old female Komodo dragon has come from Barcelona Zoo. She made the 18-hour road trip in the care of an experienced animal movement firm, Wildlife Specialist Services.
She will need time to settle into her new home in Crocodile Swamp, which is why the building will be closed to guests for a few days. The plan is to open it on Friday 20th July.
Before then, an evening event – Night of the Dragon, on Thursday 19th July, which is completely sold out – will give people the chance both to see the giant lizard in her new enclosure and hear from Paignton Zoo Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, Luke Harding, the man responsible for bringing her to Devon.
People know dragons from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Discworld and other works of fiction. But this one is REAL. Luke is buzzing about the new arrival:
“The species is misunderstood. Most people only know Komodo dragons from TV documentaries, and that’s not the whole story by any means. They have different life phases – for the first few years they mainly live up trees. The babies are beautiful, with yellow spots that help camouflage them in the canopy.”
Curiously, while the adults look formidable, the newly-hatched young are defenceless and vulnerable, measuring just 40 centimetres and weighing 100 grams. They live in trees to avoid predators – including cannibalistic adult dragons. They take 8 or 9 years to mature and can live for up to 30 years.
She arrives in Devon without a name, but staff aim to put that right as soon as possible with a public vote on the Zoo’s Facebook page. Luke: “She has attractive colouring, spotted markings and a glint in her eye… She’s a youngster, but at 33 kilos and two metres in length, still larger than any other lizard at the Zoo.”
A member of the monitor lizard family, the Komodo dragon is found on a handful of Indonesian islands; Komodo is one of them. It grows to a length of 3 metres and can weigh up to 70 kilos. The IUCN classes the species as Vulnerable.
An adult Komodo dragon is a formidable creature, capable of running in short bursts of up to 20kph (12mph). It has strong front claws and a powerful tail and can detect carrion from up to 6 miles. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.