San Diego Zoo’s Komodo dragon gets Halloween treat

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SAN DIEGO - Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo got into the Halloween spirit Monday morning, with carved pumpkins for the world’s largest lizard.

There were no candles to light the jack-o’-lanterns, but keepers filled the gourds with trout and ground elk meat drizzled with fish blood, for a 4-year-old Komodo dragon.

Ratu, which means “queen” in the Indonesian language, could see the orange gourds, but it was the action of flicking her tongue that allowed her to locate the meat, which is part of her daily diet.

Putting her food inside the jack-o’-lanterns encourages the animal’s natural behavior of scavenging and foraging.

Komodo dragons are carnivores that detect odors by sending their long, yellow forked tongue to sample the air and then delivering it to the roof of the mouth.

The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world and is the apex, or top predator in its native range on Komodo, Rinca and Flores islands in Indonesia.

They are known to scavenge from carcasses or stalk animals ranging in size from small rodents to large water buffalo.

Its jaws, muscles and throat allow a Komodo dragon to swallow huge chunks of meat rapidly, while its stomach expands easily, enabling an adult to consume up to 80 percent of its own body weight in a single meal.

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