Komodo dragons make first return to the Bronx since the 1950s

Exhibit also features rock monitors, tree monitors, and water monitors

Carefully replicated habitats demonstrate diverse landscapes where lizards live

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Bronx, NY – May 23, 2014 – Memorial Day weekend marks the opening of the WCS Bronx Zoo’s newest habitat, “Amazing Monitors,” which features Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) – the world’s largest living species of lizard. Fully grown, adult males can reach nine feet from nose to tail, and tip the scales at 360 pounds.

Estimates indicate there are fewer than 2,500 Komodo dragons remaining in the wild, with possibly as few as 350 breeding females.

“Komodo dragons are one of nature’s most amazing creatures,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and Director of the Bronx Zoo. “They are the top predator in the environment in which they live.”

“By introducing visitors to Komodo dragons and the challenges they are facing in the wild, we hope people will take on an appreciation for this uniquely adapted species. Perhaps we will even inspire the career of the next great herpetologist or conservation scientist to work in Indonesia to help save the remaining wild dragons.”

Komodo dragons are native to the eastern Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca, Padar, Gili Motang, and Nusa Kode. Their diet consists of large and small mammals including deer and buffalo, reptiles including smaller Komodo dragons, birds, eggs, and carrion. Efficient predators, they can consume up to 80 percent of their body weight in one feeding.

The Komodo’s bite can inflict a serious wound on their prey which often results in a quick death. In addition, their saliva contains a toxic mix of bacteria and venom fractions. If the prey is bitten and escapes, it is likely to die within a few days from the bite. These huge lizards can track their dying prey with a highly developed sense of smell, flicking their tongues to pick up scents and track their quarry for distances of up to six miles.

Amazing Monitors is in the Bronx Zoo’s iconic Zoo Center building. The grand opening marks the first time the Bronx Zoo has exhibited Komodo dragons since the 1950s.

The Bronx Zoo has three Komodo dragons, two female and one male. Individuals will rotate through the indoor exhibit throughout the day. At more than five feet in length, the dragons are adolescents and yet to meet their full size and potential.

The exhibit also features three other monitor species, each found in very different ecosystems. Rock, tree, and water monitors are represented by Mertens’ water monitors (Varanus mertensi), yellow spiny-tailed monitors (Varanus acanthurus), and blue tree monitors (Varanus macraei) in exhibits that replicate the habitats in which they are found.

Said Don Boyer, Bronx Zoo Herpetology Curator: “Providing the right environmental conditions, habitat, and enrichment is vital to the health and wellbeing of all animals in our care. The Komodo dragon exhibit is a good example and demonstrates the attention to detail that goes into the design of all Bronx Zoo exhibits.”

Boyer also manages the Komodo dragon Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Komodo dragons are classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Wildlife Conservation Society works around the world to protect and save many species of reptiles and amphibians. WCS has field conservation programs throughout Asia and works within the Komodo’s home country of Indonesia to save wildlife and wild places. WCS operates more than 500 conservation projects in more than 65 countries and four oceans.

Max Pulsinelli - 718-220-5182; mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild - 718-220-5189; sfairchild@wcs.org
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays, 5:30 p.m. weekends from April to October; 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m November to March. Adult admission is $16.95, children (3-12 years old) $12.95, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $14.95. Parking is $15 for cars and $18 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit bronxzoo.com or call 718-367-1010.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; facebook.com/TheWCS; youtube.com/user/WCSMedia; follow: