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L.A. Zoo Komodo dragons expecting offspring

July 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
At the Los Angeles Zoo they're "expecting." No, not some cute cuddly baby. They're expecting dragons -- lots of dragons. And they're not exactly housebroken. The hard part is getting dragons to cooperate.Ask the folks at the Los Angeles Zoo how to train a dragon and they'll tell you it's as easy as ringing the dinner bell.

"They'll come in and do anything for them if you give them a rat," said Ian Recchio, L.A. Zoo curator of reptiles.

Of course, these are Komodo dragons, not the ones that breathe fire.

Recchio says "Buru," a male, can grow to 10 feet long and weigh several hundred pounds.

The female, "Lima," will be a bit more petite.

They're not venomous, but they have been known to kill people in their native Indonesia.

"They're a mega-predator. They're the largest lizard in the world. People want to see big, scary stuff," said Recchio.

Sometimes veterinarians have to see them as well. Being big and scary can make that hard to do. So the animal handlers essentially condition the Komodos to walk -- by themselves -- into an examination crate. They do that by stuffing dead mice through a hole.

"It's all about food motivation," said Recchio.

"By feeding him in here, this is a really comfortable place," said animal handler Jim Haigwood. "He feels very safe in here and he really enjoys being in the crate. Sometimes it's very difficult to actually get him out of the crate."

Buru may be bigger, but Lima is the real celebrity. With a little help from Buru, Lima recently laid some eggs.

"Our Komodo dragons laid 23 eggs, and that's a large clutch for the species," said Recchio. "It's one of the largest recorded in North America."

Which means sometime this fall these eggs will hatch and L.A. will be crawling with dragons. Hungry dragons.

The perfect sequel, a potential holiday blockbuster, only coming to a zoo near you. And even better than a movie, you don't need lame glasses to see it in 3-D.


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