New babies have arrived at the Chattanooga Zoo. But the zoo still doesn’t know if its matchmaking efforts with the parents were a success.
Three Komodo dragon babies hatched at the zoo on Aug. 4. This was the first successful komodo dragon hatching to take place at the facility.
In the summer of 2018, the zoo opened its Komodo Dragon Breeding Facility and introduced its adult Komodo dragons, Charlie and Kadal, to each other.
Even after several introductions and observation of the pair together, zoo staff were unable to confirm successful breeding between them. Then, in December 2018, first-time mother Charlie laid a clutch of eggs inside the breeding facility.
Zoo staff then placed the eggs in the incubator, where three of the eggs hatched. Because parthenogenesis can occur in female Komodo dragons, the zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams are working to determine if the offspring are the product of successful breeding between Charlie and Kadal or if parthenogenesis occurred. DNA testing will show how the Komodo dragons reproduced.
Parthenogenesis - reproduction of offspring from an ovum without fertilization by a male - is rare but has been reported to occur in other zoological institutions.
“After years of caring for these animals, working to provide them with an appropriate space to express their naturalistic behaviors and doing everything we can to better understand this species, it’s rewarding for our staff to experience and witness the miracle of these hatchlings,” says Dardenelle Long, zoo CEO and president.
Komodo dragons are the largest and heaviest lizards in the world. They’re found on the Indonesian Islands of the Lesser Sunda group, including Rintja, Flores and the island of Komodo. Komodo dragons are listed as a vulnerable species with only 5,000 left in the wild mostly due to limited range and habitat loss.
The Chattanooga Zoo began housing Komodo dragons in 2012 through its participation in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan. The SSP is a population management program focusing on animal breeding of threatened species by strictly monitoring the placement and propagation of selected species.
At this time, the three Komodo dragon hatchlings will not be placed in the public viewable habitat. Once they have reached the appropriate age and size, they will be placed in the Forest of the World exhibit building.
Source: Chattanooga Zoo