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Akron Zoo’s Komodo dragon dies after brief illness

By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal staff writer

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The Akron Zoo’s 15-year-old male Komodo dragon, named TNT, died Monday after a brief illness.

The zoo said Tuesday that TNT died after his gastrointestinal tract shut down. A chronic degenerative condition of his spine caused problems with his rear legs and gastrointestinal tract.

TNT, which stretched 9 feet from nose to tail and weighed 140 pounds, was born in captivity on Oct. 18, 1998, at the Miami Metro Zoo. He arrived in Akron almost exactly three years later and has been a resident of Komodo Kingdom since the exhibit opened Oct. 1, 2005.

Komodo dragons — the largest living lizards and an endangered species — that are not born in captivity originate in the wilds of Indonesia.

“He was a fan favorite,” said David Barnhardt, the Akron Zoo’s director of marketing and guest services. “We will miss him ... to come nose to nose with an animal like a huge Komodo dragon was quite impressive for people.”

The median life expectancy of a female Komodo dragon in captivity is a little more than 12 years, the zoo said. There is no comparable data on male life expectancy in captivity, however, because this species’ population size in zoos and aquariums is small.

The zoo has two other Komodo dragons, Draco and Charlie.

These 3-year old sisters, each about 5 feet, 7 inches from nose to tail and weighing about 30 pounds, have been on exhibit since last April after arriving from the Denver Zoo. They will be on exhibit daily together in the Komodo Kingdom building, the zoo’s largest public indoor space.

The exhibit includes heated floors and rocks; the temperature is about 80 degrees.

Komodo dragons can become aggressive, and TNT was never on exhibit at the same time as the youngsters. The two sisters might have to be separated if they begin to show aggression toward each other, Barnhardt said.

Zoo President and CEO L. Patricia Simmons said in a prepared statement that “TNT was a great ambassador for the Akron Zoo, and so many in our community have learned a great deal about Komodo dragons during his time here.”

The zoo acquired TNT through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan.

TNT became a main attraction at the zoo following the death in 2007 of a female Komodo dragon, Contessa. She lived far beyond the norm, nearly reaching the age of 17.

For more information about the zoo, go to www.akronzoo.org.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.


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