Friday, June 26, 2009

Camera Critters 64


Camera Critters


It's Saturday and that means it's Camera Critters time. Today is Part 3 of the Behind The Scenes Tour of the Reptile House at the Houston Zoo and the star of the show, the Komodo Dragon.



I wanted to get a good photo of Judith's beautiful blue eyes. She is the head keeper of the Reptile House. She was a delight. She loves her animals and it shows. She is holding one of two small Komodo Dragons. The small guys are two years old.




The little guys are nephews of Smaug, the Houston's Zoo eleven year old Komodo Dragon.
The nephews were born at the San Antonio Zoo.



Their scales feel like tiny little beads.




Here is Smaug (named after Smaug the Golden, the dragon in The Hobbit).
He was born September 24, 1998 at the Miami Metro Zoo.
He weighs approximately 110 pounds and is 8 feet long.
You don't get a true feel for how large he is from the photo.
It was quite an experience being eyeball to eyeball with him.





Mr. Dragon adopted Smaug for me for my birthday in May.
I was visiting my adopted boy!
Judith gave Smaug a treat while we were there -- three white rats each around a foot long (not counting the tail). It took at most two gulps for each one and they were gone. Only dead prey are fed to the reptiles at the zoo (the exception - crickets for those who have them in their diet). This way they don't hurt themselves trying to catch the prey.



This gives you some idea about how large Smaug is with the reflection of the little boy in the window.



This is the only photo we didn't take ourselves.
This is Smaug's official zoo portrait.


There are over 3,000 lizard species, but the Komodo dragon wins the prize for being the biggest living lizard in the world. It is a type of monitor lizard, an ancient species of reptile with ancestors that date back more than 100 million years. These large lizards have stubby, bowed legs, clay-colored, scaly skin for great camouflage, and a huge, muscular tail. The yellow color of the Komodo’s long, forked tongue reminds people of mythical dragons that spit fire.

Most lizards are omnivores, but not Komodo dragons. Meat is what they seek. Dragons use their long tongues to pick up smells in the air, even if they’re a mile (1.6 kilometers) away. They aren’t too picky about their food, and will eat wild pigs, deer, wild buffalo, snakes, and fish that wash up on the shore. An adult dragon will hide along a trail and wait for an unsuspecting creature to walk by. Then, with long claws and short, sharp teeth, the dragon attacks. If the prey escapes, the dragon will simply follow it at a leisurely pace. That’s because the dragon’s bite contains deadly bacteria that will eventually kill its intended meal.

An adult dragon leads a life of leisure. It will emerge from its burrow in the ground to look for a sunny spot to warm up. Then it’s off to find breakfast, followed by a nice long nap in the shade during the hottest part of the day. After a late afternoon meal, the dragon is ready for bed, sleeping soundly in its burrow until a new day begins. It is a solitary creature that lives and hunts alone.

Life for a young dragon is not so easy. As soon as the baby hatches, it scrambles out of the nest dug by its mother and scurries up the nearest tree so it won’t be eaten by the adults. That’s right—adult dragons think of the hatchlings as easy meals. Fortunately for the babies, the adults are too heavy to climb trees. Youngsters live in the trees eating eggs, grasshoppers, beetles, and geckos. When they are about 4 years old and 4 feet long (1.2 meters) they are ready to try life on the ground.

They are endangered in the wild due to reduction in habitat and loss of prey animals.

I hope you'll enjoy Judith talking about Smaug on this You Tube video from the Houston Zoo.




33 comments:

Indrani said...

Very unique critter, and you have great close captures.

Sarah said...

Oh I love your critter posts!! How wonderful is he!!! Love the name - am a huge LOR fan!! One of the very few reptiles I would not relish holding - wicked bite on those boys!! Wonderful video too!!! My kids love these!!
Have a great day!! Namaste, Sarah

Cezar and Léia said...

wow magnificent and informative post! I loved this friend! LOL
purrs and love
Luna(from Brazil)

jabblog said...

Amazing beast and quite a sight in the wild I imagine. Smaug has extraordinarily 'knowing' eyes. Great video too.

Sue said...

These are great pics! And the vid clip is a bonus :) What a majestic, and awesome critter, truly living dragons!!! Thanks so much for stopping by!

STUFF said...

Ohhhhhh a Komodo Dragon! They are so extraordinary. Great shots!

Marie Reed said...

Wow! The video was amazing too! I had now idea that they could recognize people and could actually be trained!

Amy said...

Great shots, I would have been scared to death of that!

Kate T. said...

I enjoyed this post very much. Thanks!

Smaug looks like he knew his portrait was being taken in the official photo. :)

Kate

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Snap, Being a dragon fan, I'm sure you were in 7th heaven when you were near the Komodo Dragon... Did you get to hold him?????

Beautiful pictures for Camera Critters.

Have a wonderful weekend.
Hugs,
Betsy

Faye Pekas said...

Thats quite an adopted child you have :) He really is impressive. I've never seen one except in pictures.

b13 said...

what an awesome reptile. A definite throwback to to the dinosaurs.

Bruce said...

More big lizards!!! Yikes...am I dreaming?

Sharon said...

I recently went to the Miami Metrozoo and saw a Komodo Dragon. It was a very hot day so it was just lying still. Very BIG lizard though!

Kerri said...

Great captures!!

Reader Wil said...

What a very interesting post! I have learnt something new today! I saw a smaller dragon in Australia: the goanna.

Grace and Bradley said...

Incredible 8 feet in length, it is bigger than a human. Thanks for sharing and visiting our blog.

forgetfulone said...

Man, you really get an idea how big Smaug is from the video! Interesting info. Thanks for another look behind the scenes.

Rose said...

This was nice, information filled post....not so much it is overwhelming, but covering the basics. I enjoyed it.

storyteller said...

Kewl photo series of this critter and interesting info too. Reminds me of an iguana named 'NightOf' my 'ex' had as a teenager ;--)
Hugs and blessings,

Sally in WA said...

Fascinating post and creature.

Staci said...

He's a nice looking guy!

Thanks for visiting my blog on Chloe's birthday!

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Wonderful shots and great information.

myponderings said...

Reptiles of any sort usually make my skin crawl, but you make them look almost cute. :)

Sue said...

I enjoyed this post. My 30 year old son has always been into reptiles and other kinds of critters. This evening, I was called a snake lover by my next door neighbor, who I finally asked what she was mad at me for, because she had been giving me the cold shoulder. She had seen my blog post with the garter snakes. She said a person who encourages snakes should live in the country. I won't be posting about that on my blog, I don't think. I'm not sure. I may post something about what life in the city would be like without garter snakes. Anyway, you are the first person besides my husband I told so far. I hope you don't mind.

Thanks for your comment on my Camera Critters post.

madahmas said...

Great moment to be up close personal with these creatures. :)

barb said...

Smaug is very impressive! Wow! I love the Hobbit and re-read it every year. I'll have to replace my mind's eye image of Smaug with this handsome fella.

Sharon said...

Snap I think Smaug knew you were talking about him. This was really interesting. I have always wondered about where they live, etc and now I know. Thanks! Sharon PS Thanks for your comments, they ment a lot to me.

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

Totally cool that you could see this guy up close and personal! My daughter has some kind of lizard that she absolutely adores..warming stone, feeds it crickets and live things as well as salad that even I covet! Not so sure it's my kind of pet though!

Oskar said...

Great information...I am a little concerned about how many gulps it would take him to swallow a miniature schnauzer!

The Bodhi Chicklet said...

I always thought Komodos were to be feared, and here you are showing them with people. I wouldn't like to see one in the wild, though...they do give me the creeps, the way they look at you. I guess they are thinking "food". Yech. But fascinating still the same!

Carrie said...

Oh I don't think I like the idea of the Dragon that is as big as me. The lizard crawling up my arm would be a bit creepy too. Thanks for taking the time to vist me at rantings of a woman this week. We visited our new puppy and got a lot of pictures to share next week for Critters

Janie said...

Great post about an intriguing critter. I saw a komodo dragon once at the San Diego zoo. My son, 4 at the time, was fascinated with the giant lizards because we'd read a book about them.