(VIRGINIA BEACH, VA) – Staff at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center received an exciting surprise today when two baby Komodo dragons emerged from a hidden nest in the exhibit. This is the first Komodo dragon birth in the history of the Virginia Aquarium.
Jude, the Aquarium’s beloved Komodo dragon that passed away almost exactly one month ago, mated with Teman, the male Komodo dragon, in the fall and produced this clutch of eggs. Unbeknownst to staff, Jude secretly buried the eggs on exhibit, and, while staff diligently monitored for signs of a nest, none were found until today.
“We are thrilled that Jude and Teman bred successfully, and that Jude was able to lay her eggs and bury them, in true Komodo form,” said Rachel Metz, Director of Live Exhibits. “Everyone on staff was heartbroken to lose Jude and this is an emotional moment for all of us. The birth of these two Komodos gives us back a little part of her.”
Staff is cautiously optimistic for their future, and the possibility of additional hatchlings. Of the eighteen eggs, two Komodos hatched, with several other eggs showing promising signs and are now being monitored in an incubator.
“We are excited that Jude produced viable eggs that resulted in these two hatchlings,” said Dr. Allyson McNaughton, Staff Veterinarian for the Aquarium. “They appear healthy, but this is an important transition time for these young animals, so we will be monitoring them very closely.” The baby dragons have not been named yet, and will stay in a nursery behind the scenes. There are no plans yet for them to go on exhibit, and staff will monitor them extensively for the next few months. Komodo dragons are arboreal during their first couple years, residing in trees and eating small insects until they are large enough to be predator and not prey. They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Currently, there are 93 Komodo dragons at 47 AZA-accredited institutions nationwide. There are an estimated 6,000 Komodo dragons remaining in the wild, and all are located on the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia.