By Jenna Iacurci
A Komodo dragon was found dead Thursday at an Indonesian zoo infamous for its many animal deaths, the third of these giant lizards to perish this year, according to zoo officials.
The 11-year-old male Komodo dragon died in its cage at Surabaya zoo, allegedly from digestive complications. It is the third Komodo to meet its demise at the zoo this year, following the deaths of two other dragons in February and June.
"Results from the autopsy show that its digestive system was damaged and was not functioning properly, with visible red marks present on its intestinal walls," Surabaya Zoo Provincial Enterprise (PDTS) operational director Dr. Liang Kaspe said Thursday, as quoted by kompas.com.
The Surabaya zoo gets its notorious reputation from the fact that so many animals have died there prematurely in recent years due to neglect - including orangutans, a tiger and a giraffe - granting it its "death zoo" title. Zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat, however, denied any negligence, and said a police forensic team was performing autopsies as part of an investigation to determine the cause of death, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
"We don't know the exact cause of death. What's clear, however, is that the Komodo dragon's last meal is being tested in the laboratory," Kaspe added, via kompas.com.
Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizards, weighing more than 330 pounds (150 kilograms) and reaching lengths of 10 feet (3 meters) long, according to National Geographic.
And not only are they massive in size, but they are highly venomous as well. Their saliva is teeming with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, any prey unfortunate enough to be the victim of a dragon's bite will die of blood poisoning.
The recent death has left the zoo with 57 Komodo dragons, which are critically endangered and thought to number at only 2,500 in the wild - primarily on the eastern Indonesian islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca, says the AP.
The management of the zoo has since been taken over by the Surabaya city administration, but the deaths have not stopped and animal welfare groups continue to call for the zoo's closure.