Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is Home for this Komodo Dragon


Mika Miller

(Courtesy of Loveland Living Planet Aquarium)

By TJ Ross, News Writer


Draper’s Loveland Living Planet Aquarium hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate the first viewing of their new Komodo dragon.

Over 120 guests funneled to the front of the Expedition Asia exhibit to watch Brent Andersen, founder and CEO of Loveland Aquarium, officially open the exhibit.

Many of the families in attendance heard about the event from billboards around Salt Lake County, but Karmel Harper, director of marketing for the aquarium, said it wasn’t the main draw. 

“Metaphorically bigger than the billboards was the countdown posted by our PR team to Instagram and Facebook,” Harper said. “We had a countdown to ‘hatch day’ for the kids. We had a photo of an egg that progressed each day until you could see the head pop out.”

On Jun. 26, Harper and her team started a city-wide scavenger hunt that will continue for the next few weeks.

“Over the last couple of days, we planted tickets at the 9th and 9th Whale and the Capitol,” she said. “We even take a life-sized Komodo dragon along with us everywhere we go.”

The announcement and hints of where to find them can be found on the Loveland Aquarium’s Instagram page but “there is one family who already found a set of tickets by the 9th and 9th Whale and at the Capitol, they jokingly said they’re going to find them all,” Karmel said. 

(Courtesy Loveland Living Planet Aquarium)

Interaction with the youth is the goal for the new exhibit, Harper said. Another way to connect with the youth is their dragon naming campaign which will be launching later this week.

“We will gather name suggestions from the public and they will vote on the top 3,” Harper said.

But the actual plan behind the addition to the Expedition Asia exhibit has been in the works for years. 

“We’ve been eagerly anticipating this day for quite a while actually, about 6 years now,” said Ari Robinson, vice president of exhibit design and education, at the event.

Robinson explained the idea first started when they were working on the design for the science learning center that is currently being built. 

“We talked about wanting to expand our Asian habitat to provide more opportunities for our guests and members to learn and discover more about the animals that come from that area of the world,” Robinson said. 

Komodo dragons are native to the Indonesian islands but the Komodo at Loveland Aquarium was born at the Bronx Zoo, hatching on Nov. 11. 2021, according to Robinson. It hatched in the Species Survival Plan program that is managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums

The Komodo arrived by air on Wednesday, Jun. 21, and was checked out by Loveland Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Ari Fustukjian, explained Harper. The Komodo is already measuring a few feet in length and weighs only 3 pounds, a promising start to the potential 10 feet and 150 pounds a Komodo can grow to be.

The team at Loveland Aquarium had a busy week prior to the ribbon cutting.

“Last week we had to do a lot of work on the exhibit itself to help prepare it to be at the temperature and humidity it needs to be,” Harper said. 

Harper said she was relieved everything went smoothly and encouraged locals to check out the social media pages to keep up to date on events at Loveland Aquarium. 


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