VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A Komodo dragon at the Virginia Aquarium bit the hand that fed it — literally — but aquarium officials said the incident Friday was likely more due to excitement than betrayal as the popular expression implies.
The condition of the reptile keeper was not immediately available at Sentara Virginia Beach Hospital, but the injury was not life-threatening, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center said in a statement.
"Sanchez", the 3-year-old Komodo dragon, was probably excited by the prospect of eating and bit the worker in a "feed response," said Chip Harshaw, curator of reptiles and mammals.
"These kind of things happen when you work with animals like this. There is an inherent risk, and we know that," he said.
Harshaw said he came to the worker's aid as her hand was in the reptile's grip. It released the worker's hand after Harshaw put his hand on the neck of the 4 1/2-foot, 20-pound carnivore.
The biting incident was in an area that could not be viewed by visitors, the aquarium said. The aquarium has two other Komodo dragons.
Komodo dragons, which can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh as much as 365 pounds, are only found in the wild on Rinca and Komodo island in eastern Indonesia. There are believed to be 4,000 left in the world.