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Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)

History of Managed Care

  • 1934: first Komodo dragon on exhibit at Smithsonian's National Zoological Park
  • 1963: San Diego Zoo received first Komodo dragons (Shaw 1963)

Husbandry at the San Diego Zoo

(Mike Garr and Davis Provan, personal communication, 2021)


  • Usually calm in managed care
    • Misperceived to be aggressive in zoos
  • Intelligent
    • Recognize wildlife care staff
    • Can learn and follow voice commands, and other signals
  • Very strong jaws and bodies
    • Should be supervised when introducing novel enrichment objects

Shelter and habitat

  • Sun-basking areas to help regulate body temperature
  • Deep soil for digging and egg laying (females)
  • Pools for swimming
  • Durable plants and trees
    • Often lay on top of vegetation
  • Branches or other structures for climbing (juveniles)

Social interactions

  • Usually housed separately
    • Exception: male–female pairs during breeding
  • May be possible to house small juveniles together, given adequate space


  • Raw meat
    • Often rodents, rabbits, and fish
  • Other meat products to supplement nutrition
  • Occasionally fed hard-boiled eggs as a “treat”


  • Food enrichment
    • Carcass feeding
      • Elicits scavenging behaviors and strengthens muscles
    • Scatter feeding
      • Elicits foraging behaviors
      • Use sense of smell to problem-solve and find food in unusual places
  • Scent enrichment
    • Use of oils, spices (e.g., cinnamon), and animal scents (e.g., deer and hog scents) encourages movement and exploration

Page Citations

Hudson et al. (1994)
Lange (1989)

SDZWA Library Links