SINGAPORE, Dec 7, 2009 (AFP) - Singapore Zoo has successfully bred the highly-endangered Komodo dragon, officials said Monday, reporting that the rare baby reptile was in good health.
The 40-centimetre (16-inch) hatchling is the first Komodo dragon born in an Asian zoo outside Indonesia, the native home of the world's largest lizard species, a spokeswoman told AFP.
In a press statement, assistant director of zoology Biswajit Guha said the hatching of the Komodo dragon, whose gender has not been confirmed, "is one of the most significant moments" for the zoo, one of Singapore's top attractions.
The breeding of Komodo dragons in captivity "is fraught with difficulties due to incompatible pairings, dearth of experience in egg incubation and over-representation of males in zoos," he said.
The reptiles are considered one of Indonesia's national treasures. Komodos can grow up to three metres (10 feet) in length and weigh up to 140 kilograms (310 pounds).
They are listed as "vulnerable" in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
Only 3,000 of the poisonous lizards, native to Komodo and a few other islands in eastern Indonesia, remain in the wild, according to another campaign group, The Nature Conservancy, which does field work in the area. The reptiles live on a diet of large mammals, reptiles and birds, but have been known to attack humans.
An Indonesian fisherman was mauled to death by a Komodo dragon in March after he ventured into a remote island sanctuary.