It was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Hudo the 20-year-old Komodo dragon this weekend. Over the last week, his health had been compromised by an irreversible, age-related spinal issue.
Hudo hatched at the Denver Zoo in January 2003. He moved to the Indianapolis Zoo in March 2009 before coming to the Cincinnati Zoo six months later. In his 14 years here, he became a favorite of our guests and our staff. Unlike many Dragons that dull with age, Hudo remained beautifully colored. Careful monitoring of his diet kept him lean and youthful looking, even as he aged.
Far from the fearsome beasts of legend, Hudo’s temperament was more akin to that of a Golden Retriever, and it was common for his keepers to describe him similarly. “He’s a good boy” they’d often say. Hudo’s temperament endeared him to his keepers, creating the kind of bonds that usually exist between mammals and their keepers.
They were close enough to notice when Hudo’s vision worsened a few years ago. They worked with the vet staff to arrange double cataract surgery for him, which was a success and surely improved his quality of life in his last years.
Hudo had another claim to fame in addition to being the first Komodo dragon in the world to undergo (double) cataract corrective surgery. His grandfather, Naga, was given to former President George H.W. Bush in 1990 by President Suharto of Indonesia. In Indonesia, the Komodo dragon is considered a national treasure, which made this an astonishing gift. President Bush gave him to Cincinnati Zoo because of its success in mating many other endangered and rare species.
Naga was the largest Komodo dragon in the western hemisphere. At one point, he weighed about 260 pounds and reached over nine feet. He passed away due to old age. He was the most successful reproductive male Komodo dragon in Zoo history, siring up to 55 hatchlings! Due to his fruitfulness, his spirit and offspring live on at Zoos nationwide.
Visitors will still be able to see a Komodo dragon at the Cincinnati Zoo. A 1 ½-year-old male named Frunobulax arrived from the Bronx Zoo in May and can be found in the Reptile House. He weighs just over a pound but will grow to be 100 pounds or more.
He will not take the place of Hudo in our hearts, but he will earn a place of his own.