Sydney Welcomes Year of the Dragon With Komodo Dragon Conservation

SYDNEY, Australia, January 23, 2012 (ENS) – The City of Sydney and Taronga Zoo have launched the Year of the Dragon 2012 Chinese New Year Festival by joining forces to save the Komodo dragon. The rare monitor lizards found only in Indonesia, are listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP visited the zoo to welcome the Taronga Foundation as the city’s 2012 charity partner for the festival, alongside Maurice Newman, chairman of the Taronga Foundation, and Taronga Zoo’s 30-year-old Komodo dragon named Tuka and members of Sydney’s Chinese community.

At the Taronga Zoo, Lord Mayor Clover Moore, right, holds a small eastern water dragon during a news conference with Maurice Newman, chairman of the Taronga Foundation, left, and a member of Sydney’s Chinese community. (Photo courtesy Office of the Lord Mayor)

The Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis, is found only on five islands in eastern Indonesia. As few as 3,000 are believed to remain in the wild. Commercial trade in these lizards is pohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

“We are delighted to join with the Taronga Foundation to support their important wildlife conservation work,” said Mayor Moore, who adds that Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival is the biggest outside mainland China.

“The Year of the Dragon is the perfect opportunity to get to know Taronga’s dragons, from the giant Komodo named Tuka, to the small eastern water dragons that roam wild in the zoo grounds – all of which are under pressure in the wild,” said Moore.

Tuka is a 2.7 meter (nine foot) long, 78 kilogram (170 pound) Komodo dragon from the volcanic island of Flores, where two natural reserve areas are still inhabited by Komodo dragons. Tuka now lives in an open exhibit at Taronga Zoo that contains heated rocks and a heated indoor room, though zookeepers say he often prefers to stay outside.

The Taronga Foundation is committed to Komodo dragon conservation, supporting the Komodo Survival Program in Indonesia which works with local communities to preserve the endangered lizards in their natural habitat.

“With so few Komodos remaining in the wild, we are delighted that the City of Sydney is supporting the Taronga Foundation during its Year of the Dragon festivities and helping to raise awareness about these majestic dragons,” said Newman.

Tuka, the Taronga Zoo’s Komodo dragon (Photo courtesy Taronga Zoo)

As the charity partner for the 2012 Sydney Chinese New Year Festival, the foundation will take part in the city’s Twilight Parade on January 29 with more than 2,900 performers.

The parade will feature an illuminated giant Komodo dragon leading a group of 30 Taronga Zoo staff marching in zookeeper uniforms.

As the 2012 charity partner, the Taronga Foundation will have a stall at the Chinese New Year Markets in Belmore Park, selling Chinese zodiac plush toys, with the proceeds going towards the foundation’s animal conservation programs.

The foundation will also contribute to the City’s Festival program of more than 80 events by holding Mandarin-language tours of the zoo, giving visitors the opportunity to see, touch and hand-feed Australian animals.

The Taronga Foundation was created in 2000 to give Zoo visitors and supporters an easy way to support zoo programs including animal conservation, education and research. The foundation has helped build world-class exhibits and facilities and supported scientific research, education and breeding programs in Australia and around the world.

Said the Lord Mayor, “As Sydneysiders and visitors immerse themselves in the 2012 Sydney Chinese New Year Festival – our biggest and best yet – I encourage everyone to support the important work of the Taronga Foundation.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.