A new Komodo dragon has been unveiled at London Zoo to take up residence in the Land of the Giants exhibit. Ganas, a seven-year-old Komodo dragon, becomes London Zoo's latest addition after being transferred to the UK from Randers Zoo in Denmark.
Native to Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands, and named after the island of Komodo, the dragons, which are the largest and heaviest lizards in the world, have survived on Earth for millions of years but are now classified as endangered due to competition with humans for their habitat.
Able to eat up to 80% of their body weight in one feed, Komodo dragons will target a variety of animals, from pigs to huge water buffalo, and rely on camouflage to patiently wait for the perfect moment to ambush their prey.
Zookeepers at London Zoo will replicate the wild eating patterns of a Komodo dragon when it comes to feeding Ganas, a name which means 'fierce' in Bahasa Indonesian. Staff will hide food around his enclosure, and encourage the giant monitor lizard to use his keen sense of smell to sniff it out.
Iri Gill, deputy team leader of London Zoo's herpetology team, said that Ganas was a welcome new addition: "Ganas is a really exciting new arrival here at ZSL London Zoo and we're really enjoying getting to know his character. He's really eager to get going when it's time for his training and enrichment here at the Zoo, which involves rewarding him with his favourite snacks when he responds to a target – we use a coloured ball on the end of a stick.
"This means that if we ever need to move Ganas to a different area of his enclosure, weigh him, or give him a health-check, he will happily walk to where he needs to be or get on to the scales himself as he knows there's a treat waiting for him at the end," Gill added.
Already more than five and a half feet (1.75m) long, and weighing 29kg, Ganas could eventually grow to ten feet long and weigh more than 136kg (300lbs). The last Komodo dragon at London Zoo was Raja, who died from illness in June 2014. The monitor lizard made an appearance on the big screen when he was filmed in his exhibit for an action sequence in James Bond movie Skyfall in December 2011.
Visitors to ZSL London Zoo can see Ganas the Komodo dragon at 'Land of the Giants', which is also home to giant Galapagos tortoises and Professor Wu, the Chinese giant salamander.