Komodo Dragon, Gift to Bush Sr., Dies

The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 6, 2007; 11:09 AM

CINCINNATI -- A 24-year-old Komodo dragon given to U.S. President George H.W. Bush as a gift from the Indonesian government has died of an abdominal infection at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Naga, who sired 32 offspring, died Sunday, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in Tuesday editions.

"He had been ill for about three weeks. He quit eating and got real sluggish in January. We took X-rays and did some blood work, but in the end, we couldn't help him," zoo veterinarian Mark Campbell said.

Bush donated Naga to Cincinnati, where he had lived in a custom-designed enclosure at the zoo since 1990.

The zoo considered him a star attraction, estimating that 1 million of 1.3 million annual guests visited Naga's enclosure. When the Komodo visited 10 zoos in 1995 as a conservation ambassador, T-shirts were printed with a list of tour stops on the back.

With mate Sabat, a female on loan from Washington's National Zoo, Naga fathered Komodos that were loaned to other zoos.

Zoo officials planned to discuss whether to try to replace Naga, Campbell said.

Komodos are native to the arid volcanic Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia, and are named for the island where they were discovered in 1910.

The giant lizards are considered endangered, with fewer than 4,000 surviving in the wild and facing encroachment from humans.

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On the Net:

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden: http://www.cincyzoo.org/

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