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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

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September is Komodo Dragon Month at the Jacksonville Zoo!

In honor of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is featuring the African elephants as our adoption special for September. Adopt one of our Komodo Dragons for yourself or as a gift at the special $75 level, and receive two Zoo admission tickets and a cuddly Komodo Dragon plush with your adoption CarePak!

The animal adoption CarePak includes an Honorary Zookeeper certificate, biofacts and a photo of your adopted animal. All proceeds help in the care, feeding and housing of the animal sponsored, and your donation is tax deductible for one year.

Three ways to order:

  • Order online!
    • You can choose to allow your full donation to go to the care and feeding of the animals. If you choose to opt out of receiving thank-you gifts and to receive only a letter of appreciation, simply type ‘- ZOO’ in the order form after the name of the animal you are adopting. Example: ‘Squirrel Monkey - ZOO.’
  • Download an application and mail or fax it in.

  • Call (904) 757-4463, ext. 145 to place an order.

This donation is tax-deductible and is valid for a period of one year. Shipping is standard, USPS mail.  Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is not responsible for any delays in mail once shipped. Please allow 2-3 weeks for processing. No ownership rights are conferred with a donation to the program.

Animal Adoption Profile: Komodo dragon “Kawan”
Article by Mammal Keeper LeShea Upchurch

In the Asia section of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, you can find the Komodo Dragon exhibit. The Zoo is home to three dragons; two juvenile females, and one adult male. The male, known as ‘Kawan’, can be found in the main Komodo exhibit. Born in January 2003 at the Denver Zoo in Colorado, Kawan, which is the Indonesian word for ‘friend’, has been at the Zoo since October 2007.

The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard. The largest known individual was 366 pounds and was over ten feet in length! The typical weight of around 154 pounds is much closer to Kawan’s 118 pounds. He is 7.5 feet long. One of Kawan’s favorite food items is hard-boiled eggs, which he loves to chase as they roll in his exhibit. He also really enjoys exploring cardboard boxes, which he gets as enrichment. Scent is the number one sense relied on by Komodo dragons when hunting prey. Kawan’s keepers keep this in mind when giving him enrichment. His favorite part of the day is exploring his exhibit, particularly in the early afternoon, and anything new that the keepers place in the exhibit is quickly investigated.

Kawan is also part of a training program. His training sessions include behaviors such as targeting, stationing, and shifting from one area to another. “Kawan always amazes me with how quickly he learns things. It’s hard to stay a step ahead of him sometimes,” says Komodo keeper, Sean Wallace. While food is his primary reinforcement, Kawan also enjoys getting a back scratch with a broom or scrub brush. This shows that new textures, and not just scents and food items, can be very enriching to animals. 

Komodo dragons come from the small volcanic Indonesian island of Komodo, as well as a few other smaller islands nearby. Komodo dragons have been known to swim from island to island. While there is some poaching going on, there are strict anti-poaching laws, as well as the Komodo National Park, to protect these endangered animals. Their limited habitat and range also has an effect on the population numbers. Carrion bait is sometimes poisoned by villagers in an effort to reduce the Komodo population even further. Komodo dragons have been protected as early as 1915, when the Dutch colonial government instituted protection plans.

On behalf of Kawan, and the entire Jacksonville Zoo, thank you for your support!