Australian Reptile Park Celebrates Australian First With Successful Komodo Dragon Egg Laying
The Australian Reptile Park is celebrating an Australian first this week, with the female Komodo dragon (Daenerys) laying 15 eggs. Komodo dragons are the largest living lizard species. With a poisonous bite from a potentially fatal Komodo dragon, the guardians “risked their lives and their bodies to retrieve the eggs.”
No other zoo, sanctuary or facility has succeeded in raising Komodo dragons in Australia and bringing them to the egg-laying stage. This means positive signs for the breeding program and an important step for the species as it is considered endangered in the wild.
Guardians were required to retrieve the eggs to ensure the ultimate chance of survival. With such a long incubation period (eight months), the eggs are locked away in the Australian Reptile Park and keepers should keep a close eye on the eggs at all times and ensure the temperature is at an optimal level. and constant checks on eggs for their viability and health.
Fortunately, everything went according to plan with the egg removal due to the Guardians’ close relationship with Daenerys. Reptile Park staff managed to lure her out of the nesting box with food and take her to safety in another area of the enclosure. While Daenerys was secure, the reptile keepers had the delicate task of removing the fragile eggs from the nesting site and transporting them to the artificial incubator.
The egg retrieval was almost completed without a hitch, but as the last eggs were removed, the chamber began to collapse and the keepers had to scramble to protect the precious eggs. Fortunately, the Fast-Acting Guardians were able to protect all of the eggs and remove the last fragile eggs without any damage. After the eggs were retrieved, Daenerys returned to the nesting area and continued to dig unaware that the eggs were being removed.
Australian Reptile Park Head of Reptiles Daniel Rumsey notes that “a lot of work goes into breeding Komodo dragons. These are two animals that could potentially kill each other and cause serious harm to us, the caretakers, in the process. It was a bit touching during the first introductions, but our female became receptive and the two successfully mated.
“The next step is to ensure successful egg laying. Komodo dragons can become what are called “bound eggs” in which the eggs are trapped inside if you do not provide optimal laying conditions. This includes building a specially designed birdhouse with sand that is deep enough to ensure the temperature is optimal. “
After laying and removing the eggs, there are still several steps to ensure the health of Daenerys and the eggs. This included a visit to the vet with an ultrasound to make sure Daenerys had passed all eggs as well as daily egg temperature checks and weekly egg weighing. Another part of the recording process is “candling,” a process in which the keepers hold a torch behind the egg to see the formation of the baby dragon inside the egg. After two candles, the eggs are advancing perfectly.
For now, it’s a waiting game as the staff eagerly wait eight months for the eggs to hatch. The staff are currently beaming with excitement and looking forward to the day they see the eggs and then tiny little Komodo dragons.
The Komodo dragon is a living dinosaur and the largest lizard in the world. Komodo dragons can grow up to three to four meters in length and weigh over 100 kg. Found on the Indonesian island of Komodo, there is a stable population of around 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons in the wild. The Komodo dragon is a monitor; however, their forked tongue gives them the appearance of a dragon. They are carnivorous predators but they will eat just about anything.
Incidentally, the brood was not laid until a day after the species was reclassified from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, emphasizing the importance of eggs to the future of the species. Their numbers are declining due to climate change, human encroachment, poaching, natural disasters and a shortage of laying females. Breeding programs, like that of the Australian Reptile Park, are of the utmost importance.
Australian Reptile Park is a convenient zoo located in the natural bush setting of the central New South Wales coast, just 60 minutes from Sydney or Newcastle. Visitors enjoy entertaining live shows, themed exhibits, and interactions with many of the wildlife park residents. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with free parking and a barbecue. The Australian Reptile Park also accepts Dine & Discover vouchers from the Government of New South Wales until the end of June 2022. More information at www.reptilepark.com.au
Image courtesy of Australian Reptile Park
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