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March 5th 1998 Chat Transcript

Below is a transcript of the March 5th 1998 chat session with Steve Hammack Zookeeper at the Fort Worth Zoo, and Director of the Herpetological Institute foir Scientific Study.





[ModeratorJeffB] Tonight we have Steve Hammack as our guest



[ModeratorJeffB] Steve is a Zookeeper at the Fort Worth Zoo



[ModeratorJeffB] and also director of Hep. Institute for Scientific Study



[ModeratorJeffB] a breeding facility in Texas



[ModeratorJeffB] Tonight our topic...



[ModeratorJeffB] Komodos and Crocodile monitors



[ModeratorJeffB] so let me start by asking....





[ModeratorJeffB] Whats it like to work with lizards that large?



[SteveH] It can be quite interesting and a little uneasy at times.



[SteveH] A keeper at the St. Louis Zoo was hospitalized last year by a bite



- from a Crocodile Monitor.



[SteveH] Severe lacerations of the arm and a dangerous loss of blood.





[BG] Steve, do you think it will ever be possible for private keepers to



- have Komodos? Are there any laws concerning private keepers keeping them?





[SteveH] There are no laws concerning them being kept other than the fact



- that they are an endangered species. If one could get one and acquire the



- proper permits it should be feasible.



[SteveH] I don't see it happening anytime in the near future though.



[SteveH] The USFWS is keeping a close eye on where they are going at this



- point.







[Taylor] What is the largest croc & komodo monitor you've worked



- with???



[SteveH] We had NAGA, the big one at the Cincinnatti Zo0 here when we opened



- our exhibit. He was about 7.5' and aabou 175 lbs.



[Taylor] wow



[SteveH] He is the father of the 2 males we currently have at the zoo. The



- largest croc monitor was about 7' and is our breeder male.



[SteveH] Naga was a great animal and was whistle trained.





[BradK] Yes, I live in Cincinnati, the curators name escapes me at the



- moment but he lives to breed the komodos. I was wondering what the breeding



- scene is like in the US zoos and what we can expect in the future?



[SteveH] Currently the breeding has ceased until some more new bloodline



- animals make it into the courty. Miami Metro zoo has 2 new unrelated animals



- and the Memphis zoo is in the process of bringing in another 1.2 unrelated



- animals. We will get one of these females at Fort Worth.



[SteveH] The curator there is Johnny Arnett. He just published the first



- Komodo Dragon Studbook.



[SteveH] Just for everyones information, there are currently 164 Komodos in



- Captivity world wide in 40 instit;utions. The sex ratio is 21.23.120.







[Lizrdking] I've heard that the komodo's blood is rather odd.. if true could



- you explain?



[SteveH] What do you mean by odd?



[Lizrdking] I can't remeber where i heard if but I think it was odd that a



- cold blooded animal could have a high endurance rate.



[Lizrdking] (im pretty sure it was a documentry on the discovery channel)



[ModeratorJeffB] maybe a hi metabolism rate?



[SteveH] I am not sure exactly what you mean. they actually don't have a



- very high endurance as far as speed and long distances.



[SteveH] They do seem to have a fairly high metabolism rate for this type of



- animal.



[SteveH] They have an acute sense of smell, are very intelligent and each



- have their own personality.



[SteveH] They also seem to recognize certain keepers.







[Korn] Steve what and how much are the mature Komodos fed?



[SteveH] When Naga was here he was getting 6 adult rats 2 x week.



[SteveH] Sometime we also supplement with horse heart. Mostly rats.





[Elbi] Steve, what kind of education did you need and how did you get this



- job?



[SteveH] I curently have some college, never finished. Have worked in zoos



- for the past 15 years.



[SteveH] I worked for 3.5 years at a Museum , then 4.5 years at Dallas Zoo



- and now 8 years at Ft. Worth.







[Chrisk] steve-  if I'm not mistaked, ft woth has bred V. prasinus.  Were



- you involved in that project and/or know any details you're willing to



- divulge?



[SteveH] Yes, we did breed them , 2 x now. The first time we hatched 4 and



- raised 2 and the last time we hatched 2 of 3 eggs and lost both the babies.



[Chrisk] sorry for the follow up, but what are the babies dying from?



[SteveH] Chrisk, the first babies we were not sure off. The second batch



- were our own fault. They died of urate impaction from not getting enough



- hydrations.







[Boamaster] STEVE: What would one need as far as education to work in a zoo



- now?



[SteveH] WE are looking now for people with a 4 year college degree,



- preferabley  in a biological field, and some experience. Lots, and I mean



- lots, of experience can compensate for the education.







[Simmon] When was the first successful hatching of Komodos?



[SteveH] Simmon, 1992. In the States that is.











[BG] Steve, have you ever been to Komodo Island to study them? Or been to



- study the Crocs habitat?



[SteveH] I'm not that lucky, My boss has been to Komodo and assisted with



- field projects.











[BradK] Yes, Mr. Arnett,and yourself refer to Naja. Is he more important



- than other males in someway to the US zoos?



[SteveH] Brad, he is one of the founding fathers of most Komodos in the



- states.



[BradK] Are most males not fertile then?



[SteveH] In the early 90's ther were only a hadful of dragons in the states.



- Naga happened to be very fertile with one of only a couple of fertile



- females.











[ClintG] I am curious about the temperment of captive bred komodos compared



- to the wild ones?  Do you have a hands off approach at the zoo,or do you try



- to acclimate them to handling?



[SteveH] We do not have a hands off approach. Our exhibit animal, Dante, is



- a 92 hatch and is a puppy dog. We regularly go into his cage with him. He is



- large enough now ;that his attempting to climb on us is dangerous.



[SteveH] If you sit there long enough he will climb into  you rlap. Do not



- wear a rat skin cap into his cage!



[SteveH] We also are do annual check ups on them, so we want them to be as



- tame as possible.







[Chrisk] Steve, obviously any pair of Komodos that are able to produce



- hatchlings instantly become essentially genetically worthless for species



- survival plan purposes.  What steps are being taken to introduce new blood



- into captive populations?



[SteveH] New animals are slowly being brought into the captive population.



- Miami Metrozoo last year brought in 1.1 new animals and Memphis zoo is



- currently trying to bring in 1.2 new animals.











Coogan> Steve is there anything being done with DNA testing to assure good



- gentic lines reproducing and



Coogan> nothing related to each other breeding?



[SteveH] Yes. That is part of the reason for the new animals and stopping of



- the current breeding animals. The do not want too many realted animals in



- the limited space available.







[Simmon] how big is the biggest komodo in captivity?



[SteveH] That would be Naga, He is 7.5 ' and around 175 lbs.











[Taylor1]I've always read and heard that croc and komodo monitors



- get an average length of 9' is this true? If not, what is the average



- length?



[SteveH] Komodos are considered the largest monitor. They have been recorded



- to be close to 9' and supposedly up to 300 lbs, though an average adult is



- around 7' and 175 lbs. The Crocs are reportedly the longest, and some people



- say they can get to be 11' long, though half of this is tail.



[SteveH] I have never seen a croc monitor this large. An average adult is



- around 7' long.











[Elbi] Steve, are you currenly working with any crocodile monitors?



[SteveH] Yes. We were onlty the 2nd zoo in the states to reproduce this



- species and only the 4th in the world. In 1997 we had 6 hatchlings.



[SteveH] WE are the only place to have 100% hatch success. All the 3 other



- breedings were single animal hatches.



[Elbi] working with them both at the zoo or privately?



[SteveH] No, just at the zoo.



[SteveH] I don't have enough space for these guys!



[ModeratorJeffB] does anyone do them privately in the US?



[SteveH] There are a few people that have some, but no one to my knowledge



- has had success yet.











[ClintG] I would like to know if you have anything to do with the incubation



- of the Komodo eggs , and if there is anything unusual about their incubation



- compared to other reptile eggs?



[SteveH] I have no first had experience with this. From the information that



- I have, there is nothihng special about it.



[SteveH] The do have a long incuation time, 205-256 days.











[JoeM] Do you forsee komodo's in the private sector anytime soon? I don't



- mean the pet trade.



[SteveH] No, I really don't, at least not anytime soon. They are an



- endangered species and are regulated by USFWS.





[SteveH] However, if more are being produced, they eventually may start



- slipping out into the private sector at some point.







[BradK] In a recent Wild Discovery John Arnett was holding komodo



- hatchlings. Is Cincinnati having a high sucess rate, or was the camera crew



- at the right place at the right time?



[SteveH] Cincinnatti has hatched Komodos also, as well as the National Zoo.





[scuter] Have you ever heard of Crocodile Monitors crossed to a Asian Water



- Monitor or other crosses?would this occur in the wild?



[SteveH] Scruter, I have never heard of such crosses and would not expect



- this to happen in the wild either. The Crocs are much more arboreal than the



- Water monitors.







[BradK] Steve,  do the eggs show temperature sex determination?



[SteveH] Brad, They do not know at this point, but they are seeing if this



- may be the case.