Komodo Dragon Feed FAQs

In the wild, Komodo Dragons will typically bite their prey and inject a venom. They will then come back to feed later.
We feed our Komodo Dragons a whole carcass to encourage natural feeding behaviours as well as provide exercise, enrichment and nutritional benefits. The whole carcass provides more natural feeding opportunities where the Komodo Dragons can engage with the olfactory and physical challenges of the feeding behaviour. This helps to keep our Komodo Dragons stimulated as well as having positive benefits for their physical health, dentition and digestion.
It is illegal to feed live vertebrates as prey.
Muntjac originally come from China and are now an invasive species to the UK. They are widespread and increasing in range and numbers. They live in deciduous or coniferous forests within the UK.
Komodo Dragons consume a wide range of small prey including small reptiles, small mammals, invertebrates, and bird eggs, particularly when they are younger. They then move onto larger prey such as Wild Boar, Rusa Deer and Timor deer, their main prey. They can even feed on animals as big as Water Buffalo as they grow larger and older.

Out in the wild Komodo Dragons do not feed very often at all, and when they are successful in hunting prey, they gorge themselves until they are full. This will then keep them going for several weeks until they are successful again. Their digestive system and biology is adapted to accommodate this feeding pattern.

We replicate this natural diet as closely as we can here at the Zoo. Our Komodo Dragons are fed a range of different food, from rats and small rodents, to quails and rabbits. These are often used for enrichment and training leading up to a bigger feed. One of main ways we replicate this diet is by providing the Komodo Dragons the chance to feed from a carcass once a month.
Komodo Dragons are a great species to have here at Colchester Zoo as they are an endangered species. This means that they are facing significant threats out in the wild which are causing their population to decline and there are now less then 1,500 Komodo Dragons left in the wild. Our Komodo Dragons are part of a European wide breeding program and we have had success breeding Komodo Dragons in the past. Therefore, the Zoo can play a really important role in the conservation of this species.

Having these wonderful animals in captivity also provide a great learning opportunity, not only for the public but for us to learn more about their behaviour and ecology, which can help their wild counter-parts.
There are less than 1,500 Komodo Dragons left in the wild. Therefore, being a part of a European wide breeding program is incredibly important in the conservation of this species.
Even though they do not kill the deer themselves, as feeding live vertebrate animals is illegal, there are still a whole range of benefits the Komodo Dragons get from carcass feeds. There are nutritional benefits as they are consuming things like bone, fur and organs, along with the meat. This provides them with a more balanced diet and therefore, better nutrition than just meat alone.

The Komodo Dragons will also have to work hard for their food during a carcass feed and put in a lot of physical effort which is great exercise for them. It is also very mentally stimulating for the Komodo Dragons as it provides them with a challenge to solve.

A carcass feed also encourages the Komodo Dragons to perform natural behaviours that they would do out in the wild, which is great for their health and welfare.
Yes, a carcass feed closely replicates how they feed out in the wild. It encourages the Komodo Dragons to perform natural behaviours, which is great for their health and welfare. When food is given to them in small pieces, it is normally for training or enrichment as they can not gorge themselves until they are full like they would out in the wild.
We obtain the deer through deer management practices that take place in the local area. As there are no longer any natural predators in the UK, it falls on people to make sure the deer population remains balanced. This can involve the culling of deer when their population is too high and they begin to cause damage to the environment, such as overgrazing. This work is done by trained game keepers who we have a great working relationship with. They provide us with the carcass when they are undertaking this work.

Muntjac Deer (one of the species most often feed to the Komodo Dragons) is also an invasive species in the UK.
Deer most closely resembles the kind of animal that Komodo Dragons would eat out in the wild. Their main prey are Rusa Deer and Timor Deer. Replicating the Komodo’s natural diet is best for their health nutrition and welfare.

Evidence suggests that Komodo Dragons in zoos fair much better when fed in the more natural manner of gorge feeding, which is when they are fed a large meal over a long period of time rather than being fed regular small meals.
As our Komodo Dragons are only young, they only get given small (but still adult) deer so they do not have large antlers. As the Komodo Dragons get older and larger they may get fed larger deer which have larger antlers and we would look at removing these before feeding. We would then use the antlers for enrichment.

Male Muntjac Deer also only have very small antlers as it is, which are straight with no branching.
We feed our Komodo Dragons approximately every four weeks. However, the Animal Care Team monitors the Dragons’ behaviour to determine whether a whole deer or half-deer is necessary. This is the style of feeding they would use in the wild and results in positive benefits for their digestive system.
Muntjac Deer are an invasive species, culled as part of UK deer management. We house Philippine Spotted Deer at the Zoo which are part of a breeding programme. Our Philippine Spotted Deer are also listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Due to the manner in which they gorge on large meals, Komodo Dragons naturally become sluggish soon after their meals and you might notice them resting more often. However, as we near the next feed, you will notice their activity picks up and this is always an indictor to keepers that they are ready for the next meal.
Carnivores need to eat meat, and the method of feeding is a way of showing the diversity of Komodo Dragon behaviours. These types of feeds are not only best for the animal in terms of diet provision, but also provides them with enrichment and allows more natural feeding behaviours, which is better for their physiology.

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