He measures 10 feet long, weighs 180 pounds, and belongs to a species with a fierce reputation, but Sunny is one of the most personable Komodo dragons our staff has ever known. This might be because he was hatched at the Honolulu Zoo and has been around people his entire life.
Sunny’s keepers make the most of his demeanor while still keeping in mind that he is, indeed, a Komodo dragon. How to Train Your Dragon is more than a popular book and movie: it’s also a regular occurrence at the Zoo. They began training the gigantic lizard by touching a bulb-ended pole gently to his snout, then giving him a reward. Sunny, as smart as he is big, caught on that he got a bit of extra food each time he touched the target. After the keeper provided a positive reinforcement, he moved to another part of the exhibit and Sunny followed. The interaction was a boon to caring for Sunny, and opened the door to learning more about Komodo dragons, an endangered species.
Sunny soon learned to wear a special harness fitted with a GoPro camera. When a keeper called Sunny, the camera recorded the “dragon’s-eye-view” as he made his way to the target. The footage can help researchers understand more about Komodo dragon movement mechanics. A video of Sunny and his GoPro in action was posted on the Internet, bringing the social dragon some social media fame.