Komodo dragon dies in San Antonio Zoo fire

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Associated Press

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 7:03 PM

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A Komodo dragon and five other reptiles died Monday morning in a fire at the city zoo that caused $100,000 in damage.

San Antonio Zoo officials said an employee smelled smoke around 6 a.m. near the reptile area. Officials found that a 15-year-old Komodo dragon named Scatha had died. Two Amazon tree boas were among the other reptiles that died from smoke inhalation.

Another Komodo dragon — a 20-year-old male named Bubba — was saved, as were more than 90 other snakes and lizards that were moved by staff and firefighters into other holding areas.

According to National Geographic, Komodo dragons can grow to 10 feet long and more than 300 pounds, making them the heaviest known lizards. They are considered an endangered species.

"Our main challenge was heavy smoke that was in the enclosure, which used to be a giraffe house," fire Chief Charles Hood told KSAT-TV in San Antonio.

He said it was necessary for firefighters to assist with relocating the animals, including a 350-pound python named Bernice.

"When we were moving the snake it took the zookeepers to help us," Hood said. "We're not used to dealing with 22-foot snakes."

Zoo director Steve McCusker told the San Antonio Express-News the fire started when a hot mat shorted, likely because of a faulty fuse or breaker box. Animals rest on the mat to keep warm.

"It's depressing," McCusker told the Express-News. "Everybody's got sort of a lump in their stomach."

It will take at least six months to repair the Komodo dragon exhibit and holding building, officials said.

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