Komodo Dragon Preparation, Step One: Shed the Skin

Posted: April 5, 2012 - 11:03 , by Nicole Richards


  • Viewer discretion advised Viewer discretion advised The following slideshow depicts a Komodo Dragon being dissected as it is prepared for the ROM's collections. Some images may be shocking.
  • The Komodo Dragon before preparations begin The Komodo Dragon before preparations begin This large adult male Komodo Dragon is measured in at a whopping 92 inches from nose to tail!
  • Removing the skin Removing the skin A number of people working to separate the skin from the rest of the body.
  • Half way there Half way there A line shows where the skin has been cleaned and what is still left to be cleaned. The skull has not yet been removed.
  • Removing the skin from the lower jaw Removing the skin from the lower jaw The skin must be carefully removed from the jaws, avoiding those sharp teeth.
  • The skin is completely cleaned The skin is completely cleaned The skin has been completely removed from the body and all excess tissue has been removed.
  • Getting ready to ship the skin Getting ready to ship the skin The skin is rolled tight, to be packed in a cooler and sent for tanning.


Our newest addition to the Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity is going to be a very impressive Komodo Dragon (scheduled to be installed Winter 2012/2013). Upon receiving the animal from the Toronto Zoo, the first decision we had to make was how it would be exhibited. We decided that having a skeleton of a large living reptile on display would provide an interesting comparison to its ancient relatives, the dinosaurs, also found on the second floor of the ROM.

While the plan is to display only his skeleton, we wanted to remove the skin in one piece so that it could be tanned and used in the many educational programs here at the museum. The preparation of such a large lizard isn’t easy. This specimen was an adult male over 7.5 feet long. His large muscular legs and tail also made him very heavy. A team of people and a large autopsy table were required for the initial stages of preparation.

The actual skin of the Komodo Dragon was quite thick, and the pads of the feet were especially difficult to cut through. In fact, our knives would almost immediately dull after making a cut. Removing the skin from the skull had many unique challenges, which included trying to avoid getting cut on those sharp teeth!

Once the skin was removed in one piece, it had to be cleaned of the remaining tissue that was still attached to ready it for the tanning process. I imagine it’s not every day that a tanner gets a call to prepare a dragon, but we found one in BC that was up to the task. So the skin of this large animal was packed up in a surprisingly small cooler and was sent westward.

Up next...STEP 2: Into the Bug Room