The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is the largest and most dangerous lizard in the world. Any animal with those kinds of superlatives is endlessly fascinating to humans. Here is a look at the Komodo dragon, along with lots of zoos where you can see this amazing creature up close.
The Komodo dragon can grow over ten feet long and weigh 300 pounds or more. This reptile is native to six islands in the Indonesian archipelago, though it has since been extirpated on one of those islands and is under severe threat on another. It is classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The creation of Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1980 may have saved the animal from extinction.
This huge lizard is the apex predator in its very limited range. The Komodo dragon has the smallest home range of any large predator in the world. Its preferred prey is Timor deer, but these dragons will also predate water buffalo, Asian palm civets, boars, birds, rats, snakes, fish, goats, chickens, and eggs. They will also scavenge carrion. A Komodo dragon can go weeks at a time without eating. However, when this predator does snag a meal, it can eat up to 80% of its body weight in one sitting.
The Komodo dragon is one of only three venomous lizards in the world, along with the Gila monster and Mexican beaded lizard. The lizard’s sixty serrated teeth deliver venom similar in composition to that of a rattlesnake. The venom prevents the blood of the lizard’s victim from clotting, causing the animal to bleed to death.
This reptile was not discovered by the Western world until 1910. Due to the world’s fascination with this newly discovered giant lizard, it wasn’t long until it was placed on exhibit in a zoo. The first Komodo dragon displayed in captivity was at the London Zoo in 1927. The first exhibition of the animal in the United States was at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in 1934, but the animal only lived for two years. These lizards are susceptible to infection and disease when removed from their native environment. Breeding in captivity also proved challenging. However, further research has allowed zoos to create much more hospitable environments where these lizards can thrive and even reproduce.
Zoos With Komodo Dragons
Here are 42 zoos where you can see these amazing reptiles. These organizations do more than display these lizards, though. They work diligently for the conservation and care of these amazing reptiles.
1. ABQ BioPark Zoo
Albuquerque’s ABQ BioPark Zoo houses a Komodo dragon named Indah in the Reptile Building. Lucky visitors may even see keepers taking Indah for a stroll. The lizard is on a leash, of course, but that is still quite a sight in central New Mexico!
2. Akron Zoo
Draco, a 12-year-old female Komodo dragon that called the Akron Zoo home since 2010, died in January 2023. Her keepers mourned her passing, noting the “exceptionally trusting relationship” she had with her care team. The zoo is now home to two male dragons. Padar is the senior of the two. The zoo recently welcomed a young dragon named Jasper in September 2023. Since male Komodos prefer a solitary life, the two will alternate appearances in the public habitat.
3. Audubon Zoo
Located in Uptown, New Orleans, the Audubon Zoo features unique habitats such as the Louisiana Swamp and Jaguar Jungle. The Reptile Encounter exhibit features more than 50 species of reptiles, including the Komodo dragon.
4. Birmingham Zoo
5. Brevard Zoo
It can be difficult for a smaller zoo to provide for the needs of Komodo dragons, but the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida demonstrates how it can be done. The zoo opened in 1994 and welcomes 400,000 visitors each year.
6. Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States by area. The zoo houses over 700 species and over 10,000 individual animals. Included in that number is the Komodo dragon, which resides at Zoo Center.
7. Cameron Park Zoo
Waco, Texas, residents don’t have to travel to Indonesia to see a Komodo dragon. They can just go to the Cameron Park Zoo. The Komodo dragon exhibit is part of the zoo’s Asian Forest, which opened in 2009.
8. Chattanooga Zoo
Southeastern Tennessee is home to the Komodo dragon thanks to the Chattanooga Zoo. The zoo even offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for guests to feed a Komodo dragon! That experience requires preregistration and an additional fee.
9. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
The Cincinnati Zoo recently lost Hudo, a 20-year-old Komodo dragon who lived at the zoo for 14 years. The zoo described his loyal behavior as more like that of a golden retriever than a lizard. He was the first Komodo dragon in history to undergo successful double cataract corrective surgery. President George H.W. Bush gave the lizard to the zoo after he received it as a gift from President Suharto of Indonesia.
While the zoo mourns the loss of its beloved Hudo, there is a new dragon on display. Frunobulax, a 1 ½ -year-old Komodo dragon, arrived in Cincinnati from the Bronx Zoo in May 2023.
10. Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland
11. Denver Zoo
Much of Komodo Island, where Komodo National Park is located, sits between 300 and 1,200 feet above sea level. Denver’s one-mile high elevation is certainly a departure for this lizard, but thanks to the Denver Zoo, the animal thrives at that high elevation. The dragon can be viewed in the zoo’s Tropical Discovery habitats.
12. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Visitors to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, can check out a wonderful Komodo dragon exhibit.
In an interview with A-Z Animals, Lauren Enochs of Travel to Infinity said, “Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened to the public on April 22, 1998 (Earth Day), with a unique concept that combines live animal exhibits and cutting-edge theme park technology.”
The travel professional specializing in Disney vacations went on to note, “[Animal Kingdom’s] Komodo dragon habitat is intended to mimic the diverse ecosystems of the Indonesian rainforest and is located along the Maharajah Jungle Trek, just waiting to welcome any of the nine million visitors who attend the park each year.”
13. Essex County Turtle Back Zoo
The Reptile House at the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey is home to the zoo’s Komodo dragon. The lizard shares its habitat with a flock of Taveta golden weavers. The house also has a Komodo dragon skull on exhibit, so guests can learn even more about this massive predatory lizard.
14. Fort Worth Zoo
This Texas zoo is a leader in Komodo dragon care. It provided dragons for multiple other zoos on this list. In 2017, the Fort Worth Zoo welcomed eleven Komodo dragon hatchlings.
15. Fresno Chaffee Zoo
16. Honolulu Zoo
17. Houston Zoo
The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard,, and it resides in Texas’s largest city, thanks to the Houston Zoo. Over two million people visit the zoo each year to view the 6,000+ animals that call the zoo home.
18. Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
19. Louisville Zoo
You may not expect to find the founder of Rome in Kentucky, but that’s (kind of) what you will encounter at the Louisville Zoo. Romulus is the zoo’s Komodo Dragon. The male, who came from the Fort Worth Zoo in 2018, is named after the legendary founder and first king of Rome.
20. Los Angeles Zoo
The Los Angeles Zoo houses more than 2,000 animals representing over 270 species, including 60+ endangered species. The Komodo dragon is one of those endangered species that call this southern California zoo home.
21. Memphis Zoo
Elvis Presley was known to wear jumpsuits embroidered with dragons, so it seems only fitting that the city where Graceland is located is also home to the Komodo dragon. The Dragon’s Lair habitat at the Memphis Zoo opened in 1998. The zoo has a long history of caring for these endangered animals.
22. Minnesota Zoo
Take a hike down Tropics Trail at the Minnesota Zoo, and you’ll encounter animals such as the binturong (bearcat), tapir, red river hog, rhinoceros hornbill, lemur, and gibbon. You’ll also find the Komodo dragon.
23. Montgomery Zoo
Merlin, a two-year-old male Komodo dragon, made his debut at the Montgomery Zoo in 2020. The lizard, now five years old, can be seen by visitors to this Alabama zoo.
24. Nashville Zoo
This zoo in Tennessee’s capital city opened the largest Komodo dragon habitat in the Americas in July 2023. The habitat is designed to house two adult males, three adult females, and multiple juvenile Komodo dragons. Nashville Zoo’s collection of dragons includes Lil Sebastian. This ironically named lizard is the largest of the zoo’s dragons at nine feet long.
25. North Carolina Zoo
26. Oklahoma City Zoo
Komodo dragons exist in central Oklahoma. At least, they do at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo houses two dragons, a ten-year-old female named Kotara and a seven-year-old male called Padar. These lizards reside in the zoo’s Sanctuary Asia habitat.
27. Phoenix Zoo
28. Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium
Western Pennsylvania residents don’t have to travel far to see a Komodo dragon. A quick trip to Pittsburgh is all it takes. The Pittsburgh Zoo houses its Komodo dragon in the Forest Passage area near the main entrance of the zoo.
29. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
This zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, opened in 1974 and houses more than 3,000 animals. Two Komodo dragons are part of the zoo’s animal family. The dragons, named Dutch and Anna, reside next to Siamang Island at the zoo.
30. Roger Williams Park Zoo & Carousel Village
Rhode Island residents can see a Komodo dragon at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. The female lizard, named Elsie, resides in the zoo’s World of Adaptations exhibit. The zoo claims Elsie to be the only Komodo dragon at any zoo in New England.
31. Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park
This zoo in New York State is home to over 700 animals. Syracuse residents can see animals ranging from the tiny dart frog to an 8,000-pound Asian elephant at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. And, of course, the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon.
32. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
The first Komodo dragons arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 1968. Since then, the zoo has become a leader in Komodo dragon breeding research. The Kenneth C. Griffin Komodo Kingdom opened at the zoo in 2021.
33. San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
This historic zoo is home to two Komodo dragons. The newest of the two arrived in November 2022. The San Francisco Zoo announced the name of this young male dragon in January 2023. It is named Rinca, after one of the islands in the Komodo dragon’s native range.
34. Smithsonian’s National Zoo
The National Zoo was the first zoo outside of Indonesia to hatch Komodo dragons successfully. Today, it is home to Murphy, whom the zoo describes as a “calm, laid-back lizard.” The zoo also welcomed a new young Komodo dragon named Onyx in 2021.
35. Toledo Zoo & Aquarium
36. Toronto Zoo
37. Tulsa Zoo
Residents of T-Town can see the Komodo dragon at the Tulsa Zoo. The 84-acre zoo is located in Mohawk Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.
38. Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Located in Virginia Beach, the Virginia Aquarium is home to all sorts of marine species, such as sharks, eels, and sea turtles. There is also an impressive array of terrestrial reptiles, including Komodo dragons. That is not to suggest that Komodo dragons are unfamiliar with a marine environment. On the contrary, these lizards are excellent swimmers and can dive up to 15 feet. The Virginia Aquarium is home to three dragons named Teman, Bejo, and Kado.
39. Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo renovated its Komodo dragon habitat in 2021. Ultraviolet heat lights are hidden in artificial logs. A new tree root area encourages digging and tunneling, natural behaviors for Komodo dragons. And the exhibit’s updated glass offers better viewing for the zoo’s guests. This zoo in Washington State features two male dragons, 4-year-old Nakal and 8-year-old Berani. They can be seen in the Adaptations Building.
40. Zoo Atlanta
Residents of Georgia’s capital can see this amazing lizard in their city. Zoo Atlanta’s male Komodo dragon can be viewed in his outdoor habitat during the summer or in his indoor habitat during the cooler seasons. Komodo dragons need a hot and humid climate to thrive. Sounds like summer in Georgia!
41. Zoo Miami
Situated on 750 acres, Zoo Miami houses nearly 400 different species with over 2,500 individual animals, including the Komodo dragon. Residents and vacationers alike can enjoy this lovely zoo in southern Florida, which includes four miles of walkways that wind through the zoo’s various exhibits.
Visitors to this zoo (and any other zoo) are urged to use caution while viewing the animals on exhibit. In 2020, a Komodo dragon at Zoo Miami underwent emergency surgery after the lizard swallowed a one-foot-long rubber water bottle with a metal lid and carabiner. The bottle was dropped into the Komodo dragon’s exhibit by a zoo guest. Since it was too large to pass through the animal’s digestive system naturally, immediate surgery was the only option to remove the obstruction. Otherwise, the animal would have died. Thankfully, the Komodo dragon named Estrella survived the surgery.
42. ZooTampa at Lowry Park
History was made recently at ZooTampa at Lowry Park when, for the first time in the zoo’s history, Komodo dragon eggs successfully hatched. In August 2023, six new hatchlings arrived. They were the offspring of Aanjay (mother, age 13) and Titus (father, age 12).
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