Born at the zoo in 2003, Raja loved to walk along his habitat's boundaries and greet his fans eye to eye.
The zoo was sad to announce that Raja, a male Komodo dragon, passed away over the weekend of March 23-24. He has been a favorite of zoo-goers for years, wowing people with his eight-foot, 95-pound frame since his birth there in 2003.
"Few animals in Tropical Discovery—or at the Zoo, for that matter—garnered as many “oohs” and “aahs” as Raja, especially when he sauntered along the glass to greet guests eye to eye," the zoo said in a statement.
An initial necropsy confirmed several health problems that he was being treated for, including spinal disease and arthritis, according to the zoo. Raja had been receiving physical therapy to help with mobility and pain relief. His keepers and veterinarians had noticed a decline in his health recently and increased supportive care to keep him comfortable during his final days.
Raja will be remembered fondly by his millions of fans and zoo staff alike.
"Although Komodo dragons are known for their razor-sharp teeth, massive claws and ability to ambush large prey, Raja will be remembered as calm, well-tempered and comfortable around his caretakers. In fact, he would allow—and even seemed to enjoy—the presence of keepers and veterinarians who provided him with exceptional care throughout his life," said the zoo.
If you would like to pay your respects to Raja, the zoo encourages you to stop by the Tropical Discovery exhibit and learn more about his species, which are classified as "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. A quartet of Komodo dragons was born in January and are out and about in the exhibit, as well!
Were you or a family member a fan of Raja? Share your experiences with him or pictures in the comments.