Amid a seeming baby boom at Zoo Atlanta, there's been a loss. Slasher, a 20-year-old male Komodo dragon, passed on Monday.
A spokesperson says the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams made the difficult decision to euthanize the geriatric reptile after marked declines in his mobility and behavior suggested that age-related complications were compromising his quality of life.
"We see our share of Members and guests who have an avid interest in reptiles, but it's not often that visitors make the same sort of connection with a reptile that we see them make with many other animals. That can't be said for Slasher," said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. "He was one of the Zoo's most charismatic residents, and few people who ever saw him, much less had the opportunity to meet and feed him, ever forgot him."
Slasher, who hatched at Smithsonian's National Zoo in October 1992, arrived at Zoo Atlanta in July 1993. When he wasn't seen basking in one of his two habitats, he impressed animal care professionals with his aptitude for training.
In 2012, Slasher helped to pioneer the Zoo's Komodo Dragon Wild Encounter program, which allowed guests to go behind the scenes to feed the giant lizard. While he was already considered geriatric for his species by that time, he consistently amazed his visitors with his speed and agility.
Komodo dragons have lived into their 20s; however, dragons in their upper teens show signs of aging. The oldest Komodo dragon documented in captivity was 26 years old.
Native to Indonesia, Komodo dragons are Earth's largest lizard species and are capable of hunting prey as large as deer. Zoo Atlanta is also home to a young Komodo dragon, male Rinca, 2, who resides in the World of Reptiles.
As is the case with all animal deaths regardless of age, a necropsy will be performed through the Zoo's partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The Komodo Dragon Wild Encounter program is currently on hold until further notice; visit www.zooatlanta.org for information on the Zoo's other Wild Encounters programs.