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Reptiland Roundup: Turtles and Tortoises

Happy International Turtle & Tortoise Week!

In honor of International Turtle and Tortoise Week, we wanted to show off all the wonderful species of turtles and tortoises we have here at the zoo. What’s the difference between the two? The main thing that distinguishes a turtle from a tortoise is that turtles live in water at least some of the time while tortoises live on land. Read on to learn more about the species we have here!

Turtles

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator snappers are among the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world, weighing an average of 45 lbs. These powerful animals can bite through the handle of a broom! You can find ours in the exhibit gallery.

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turtle

Eastern box turtle

Even though Eastern box turtles are turtles, they spend most of their lives on land. This turtle has a very high human-induced mortality rate, so it is actually illegal to catch them from the wild and keep them as pets. See our box turtles in the outdoor pond exhibit!

 

Florida softshell turtle

The Florida softshell turtle is a freshwater turtle with a long neck and a snorkel-like nose. The females get considerably larger than the males—females weigh an average of 15 lbs, while males only average about 6 lbs. You can find ours in the exhibit gallery, but you may need to look closely—sometimes they burrow under the pebbles!

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Mata mata turtle

The mata mata turtle is an aquatic turtle that prefers shallow, stagnant or slow-moving bodies of water. Mata mata turtles cannot chew due to the structure of their mouths, so they suction feed. You can find ours in the exhibit gallery!

 

Painted turtle

Painted turtles are a freshwater turtle native to the United States. Four U.S. states have actually named the painted turtle their state reptile! Find our painted turtles basking in the sun in the outdoor pond exhibit on warm days.

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Pond slider turtle

The pond slider turtle is a common semi-aquatic turtle with a few different subspecies. These turtles are extremely popular in the pet trade, but conservationists warn against pet owners releasing them into the wild since they are an invasive species. Find our many rescued pond slider turtles in the outdoor pond exhibit!

 

Snake-necked turtle

The snake-necked turtle is named for its long, flexible neck. Our particular species of snake-necked turtle, chelodina mccordi, is one of the most sought-after turtles in the exotic pet trade. Because of this, they are critically endangered. Ours are swimming in the exhibit gallery!

 

Wood turtle

Wood turtles are a North American species of turtle that can be found near shallow, clear streams of water. Humans and other animals pose a significant threat to the wood turtle at all stages of its life. If unharmed, these turtles can live for 40 years in the wild and up to 58 in captivity. You can see ours in the outdoor pond exhibit!

Tortoises

Aldabra tortoise

Aldabra tortoises are one of the largest species of tortoise in the world, similar in size to the Galapagos tortoise! You can find our fully grown Aldabra tortoises, Al and Henry, in the Island Giants building. We even have a few young Aldabras who have not reached their full size yet in our exhibit gallery!

 

Forest tortoise

The forest tortoise is the sixth-largest species of tortoise on earth. These tortoises have a unique sound—they can make a noise that sounds like a baby cooing with a raspy voice. You can find ours hanging out with the iguanas in the exhibit gallery!

Indian star tortoise

The Indian star tortoise is an endangered species of tortoise due to its popularity in the exotic pet trade. The unique shape of their shell assists them in righting themselves when they get turned over. You can find ours in the exhibit gallery!

We hope you enjoyed learning more about our turtles and tortoises. Help us celebrate International Turtle and Tortoise Week by visiting them here at the zoo!

Crested gecko | Spring Babies: New additions to the zoo

Zoo Babies: New Additions to Celebrate the Start of Spring

Happy first day of spring!

Spring marks a time of new beginnings, and there’s no better beginning than welcoming a baby animal into the world! So to celebrate this season of new beginnings (and all the spring babies to come), we’re sharing all of the zoo babies we’ve welcomed over the past year!

Henkel’s leaf-tailed geckos

Through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Reptiland is part of a Species Survival Plan for many vulnerable and endangered animals. One of these, Henkel’s leaf-tailed geckos, are found on the island of Madagascar. Due to loss of habitat and collection for the pet trade, these geckos are listed as Appendix II by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which means they need to be protected or they could end up on the endangered list. We’re excited to announce that we recently hatched 13 of these beautiful geckos!

Henkel's leaf-tailed gecko | Zoo Babies: New Additions to Celebrate the Start of Spring

Amazon milk frogs

Our Amazon milk frogs sure kept us busy. We had more than 200 tadpoles hatch over the past year! In the wild, eggs are laid in areas like tree hollows. The male will call a female over to lay her eggs which he will then fertilize. Once the tadpoles hatch, they need a food source, so the male will continue to call females over to the tree hollow to lay eggs. He won’t fertilize these clutches and instead will let his tadpoles eat them.

Amazon milk frogs | Zoo Babies: New Additions to Celebrate the Start of Spring

Poison dart frogs

We have many species of poison dart frogs on display at the zoo – the one pictured below is the phantasmal dart frog. Even though they’re less than an inch long, they’re by far the loudest of our poison dart frogs! The males call to the females and lead them to a bromeliad plant. The males will guard the fertilized eggs until they’re tadpoles. He will allow them to wiggle their way onto his back and will carry them to the water below. Much like the Amazon milk frogs, we had LOTS of new poison dart frogs this year!

Poison dart frogs | Zoo Babies: New Additions to Celebrate the Start of Spring

Day geckos

Many species of colorful day geckos live throughout Madagascar. They’re very opportunistic and eat a variety of insects, fruit, nectar, and smaller lizards. We house five species for our traveling exhibit Geckos: Tails to Toepads. Four of them are called jeweled day geckos for their small size and dazzling colors – peacock, lined, gold dust, and neon. The other species is MUCH bigger and is accurately named the giant day gecko.

Day geckos | Zoo Babies: New Additions to Celebrate the Start of Spring

Crested geckos

Crested geckos have become one of the most popular reptile pets over the last two decades. Incredibly, this species was thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered on their native island of New Caledonia in 1994 after a tropical storm! They’re named “crested geckos” due to hair-like structures that form a crest around their head and down their back. They also have them above their eyes which makes it look like they have eyelashes. Like most geckos, they cannot blink and must clean the transparent scale covering their eye with their tongue. We think they’re pretty cute all the time, but no one can deny how cute this tiny gecko is!

Crested gecko | Zoo Babies: New Additions to Celebrate the Start of Spring

Pueblan milk snakes

We had three clutches resulting in 16 baby Pueblan milk snakes this year! Right from the start, they have bright red bands which tell potential predators that they’re dangerous and to leave them alone. Here’s the fun part – milk snakes are completely harmless! They mimic the very deadly coral snake as a defense.

Pueblan milk snakes | Zoo Babies: New Additions to Celebrate the Start of Spring

So there you have it: all of the beautiful new additions to the zoo over the past year! Want to see more baby reptiles and amphibians? Check out our Behind-the-Scenes tours for access to Reptiland’s nursery!

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling

A comfortable bed in Johannesburg was a welcome sight after a 14-hour flight from JFK. But my group was eager to board yet another flight early the next morning for an additional five hour flight to Windhoek—the capital of Namibia and the starting place for our safari. Namibia is a part of Africa I’d always wanted to visit. In the early 1960s, my late friend Arthur Jones had captured 80 Nile crocodiles—none under 11 feet—in the Caprivi strip near the Zambian border, and I wanted to see whether there were still crocs there in large numbers. There are, but more on that later.

From the airport into Windhoek, we began seeing troops of chacma baboons, greater kudu, red hartebeest, and springbok. A good sign. We settled into the Galton Guest House where we met our guides for a briefing of what was to come.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde PeelingThe next morning we loaded luggage into a trailer towed by one of the two Land Cruisers that would transport us about this large country for the next ten days. We headed southwest, our destination the Namib Desert and the Desert Homestead where we spent the next two nights. An African Hawk-eagle observed us from a tree and a Southern pale chanting goshawk soared on the horizon. The bird life in Namibia is exceptional.

Namibia, I should explain, sits directly above South Africa and is bordered on the west by the South Atlantic; on the east by the landlocked nation of Botswana and the eastern tip of Zimbabwe; and to the north by Angola and Zambia. The diversity of landscape is breathtaking. Some of the highest sand dunes in the world (over 1,000 feet) are in the Namib Desert created by winds off the Atlantic coast. A concentration of iron in the sand increasingly oxidizes in the older, more inland dunes giving them a beautiful pink hue.

Our host at the Desert Homestead cautioned us about the dangers of the desert. Two people had nearly lost their lives the year before having gotten lost without water—and only a short distance from camp! Only by luck had they been discovered by a rescue team. Water is precious in the desert. Thankfully, our group stayed well hydrated and experienced no problems.

We left the Desert Homestead and continued west arriving at the coastal town of Walvis Bay for lunch before following the coast north to Swakopmund. Early the next morning we explored sand dunes outside town where our guides uncovered a well camouflaged Peringuey’s viper and a horned adder—both members of the venomous genus Bitis. We located a shovel-snouted lizard, a Namaqua chameleon, and a web-footed gecko—lizard species adapted to the harsh life in and around desert dunes.

Namib desert

Damaraland was next. Our lodge there was almost invisible from a distance. It had been cleverly nestled amongst the giant house-sized boulders of a kopje. The entire region consists of rugged mountains, dunes, and gravel plains. Animals are surprisingly abundant. On a morning game drive, we found ourselves surrounded by desert elephants.

A large bull began making threatening gestures (ears out, trunk up), and the guides became noticeably concerned. An elephant can easily crush or overturn a vehicle and we decided to make a fast retreat to avoid an attack. The timing could not have been worse. One of the Land Cruisers would not start. Dead battery. Nervously the guides kept an eye on the bull, tied a tow rope, and we escaped a potentially bad situation.

Passing through and over some of the worst terrain imaginable (a road it was not) we arrived at a Himba village.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

The Himba people live as they have for hundreds of years. Their small bomas are circular in shape with cone-shaped reed roofs and walls plastered with mud and cow dung. A remarkably cool solution to the intense desert heat.

These are nomadic people, and it was entirely possible there would be no one home after our long tortuous ride, but we were in luck: women, children, and a few young men welcomed us to their village and into their homes.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

Himba wealth is measured by cattle, the wealthiest members of the tribe having numerous large herds scattered about the region. Himba women never bathe, even when water is available. Instead, they smear their bodies with animal fat mixed with pulverized red rock. It must be a worthy alternative as we detected no objectionable odor.

We spent the next two nights at Andersson’s Camp just outside Etosha National Park. A water hole off the dining area attracts a variety of wildlife—the most exciting were two young rhinoceroses. After exploring Etosha, we returned to Windhoek to join up with four more friends who would be with us for the remainder of the safari.

From Windhoek we flew to the Caprivi—a strip of land that forms a panhandle in northern Namibia. This is normally a wet area teeming with crocodiles and other wild animals, but the Caprivi had not had significant rain in two years. Our camp, Nkasa Lupala, had been built along a now dry river. In spite of the drought, we saw lots of wildlife. Within the first few minutes after arriving, one of our group discovered a venomous night adder swallowing a toad directly behind one of the parked Land Cruisers.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

Nkasa Lupala is owned by an Italian family who have made every effort to leave no carbon footprint. The camp consists of tents erected on elevated platforms, and it is completely solar powered. Simone and his brother joined us for evening meals and answered our many questions. One of which was about elephant poaching. Is it a problem?

Indeed it is. But unlike some African nations, Simone told us Namibia does not have a shoot-to-kill policy. When frustrated Namibian rangers encounter elephant poachers, they chase the poachers across the border into Botswana and notify the rangers there. Why? Botswana rangers shoot to kill. This may seem like harsh treatment, but consider this: poachers are currently killing an estimated 96 elephants a day in Africa. If elephants are to avoid extinction, harsh solutions may be the only hope. Learn more about the 96 Elephants conservation movement.

After two nights at Nkasa Lupala, it was only a few hours to Chobe National Park in Botswana. There’s no way to describe Chobe Game Lodge except to say…it’s posh. Luxury accommodations are $910 a night during the high season and $500 during low season. The five-star lodge is located along the Kwando-Linyanti river system, and we explored the river by boat where we saw Nile crocodiles and watched a family of elephants bathing along the shore. We used electric powered Land Rovers for game drives, and Chobe has plenty of game—lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, hartebeest, impala, kudu, warthog, and springbok to name a few.

From Chobe we crossed the border into Zimbabwe. After settling into our hotel, some of our group took a helicopter tour of Victoria Falls, while others walked above the falls in the mist the following morning. Here the mile-wide Zambezi River drops 354 feet. It is the world’s largest sheet of falling water, roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

Truly an impressive sight and a perfect climax to a wonderful safari!

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More photos from Clyde’s Safari

Click to enlarge images

Interested in Adventure Travel?

Learn about Clyde’s next safari to Costa Rica in February 2017!

World Snake Day: Celebrate and Educate

Here at Reptiland, our mission has always been to educate visitors on the less-loved members of the animal kingdom, namely snakes. We use the term “less-loved” because that’s a nice way of referring to most people’s perception of snakes. Throughout the years, we’ve often heard unfavorable comments made by guests or stories of people avoiding the zoo altogether simply because they dislike and/or fear snakes. The truth is, snakes are amazing creatures that are very much misunderstood. Put aside the myths and misconceptions and get the real story on snakes with this article.

We’ve tried our best over the past 50 years to dispel common myths and misconceptions about these beautiful animals, and we will continue to do so for years to come. That said, we’re proudly celebrating World Snake Day by sharing some of our favorite photos and facts about snakes!

A Few of our Fave Photos…

Did You Know?

  • There are more than 3,000 different species of snakes.
  • Snakes have no eyelids or external ears, and they smell with their tongues!
  • Snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Snakes eat their prey whole and are able to consume prey three times larger than the diameter of their head because their lower jaw can separate from the upper jaw.
  • Some sea snakes can breathe partially through their skin allowing for longer dives underwater.
  • Corn snakes can angle their scales so that they dig into bark, allowing them to climb trees.
  • The paradise tree-snake of Southeast Asia can fly. It swings its body through the air, then flattens into a C-shape to catch the airflow. If it flips its body back and forth, it can change directions as it falls.

Happy World Snake Day!

Want to see more slithery serpents and learn all about them? Come see us! Click here for hours, rates, and show times.

 

Visitors “Dug” Dino Days

Last weekend we hosted Dino Days, an event dedicated to all things prehistoric. It turned out to be a fantastic weekend, despite the uncooperative weather.

Our special guest for this 2-day event was Chris DeLorey, also known as Dr. Dino, Director of Education at the Brevard Zoo. As a paleontologist and dinosaur expert, he’s gone on many digs and has traveled all over the world. He brought fossils and artifacts from his personal collection to share with guests, gave special presentations in our Program Center, and answered all kinds of dino-related questions!

  • Dr. Dino giving his exciting “Dino Hunt” presentation

  • We didn’t let rain put a “damp”er on the weekend–but umbrellas were a must!

  • Dr. Dino sharing his artifacts (and knowledge) with guests

  • Taking a break from the weather

  • Sabian enjoyed making his very own fossil rubbing book

  • …and so did his little sister!

  • The Prehistoric Prize Package that children could enter to win

Kids could create their very own fossil rubbing book, and enter to win our Prehistoric Prize Package filled with dino-themed goodies! They also got to take home real dinosaur bone fragments courtesy of Dr. Dino.

It was a fun, educational weekend, and based on all the positive feedback we received, we’re anxious to outdo ourselves next year with another DINO-mite event!

Meet the Team: 2014 Dino Starting Lineup

With March Madness in full swing and the return of Dinosaurs Come to Life in less than a month, we wanted to give you a glimpse at our impressive lineup of dinos for 2014!

Dilophosaurus

dino starting lineupAs the only returning dino, Dilophosaurus is a seasoned vet and fan favorite.  “The spitter” boasts a double-crested head and impressive trajectory of his “poison,” perfect for cooling kids off on a hot summer day. Just don’t mention the movie Jurassic Park—he’s still upset about their inaccurate depiction of him being the size of a dog with girly frills…

Suchomimus

dino starting lineupSuchomimus has a long, narrow snout reminiscent of crocodilians and former DCTL player Baryonyx. Although he’s not the largest in the group, with sharp claws, ferocious teeth, and a prime position within the murky waters of Reptiland, his strategy is intimidation. Thankfully, he’s all “roar” and no bite. He also prefers fish over other meat, so no worries.

Dimetrodon

Dimetrodon is known as the most famous “non-dinosaur” dinosaur, and can be easily identified by the large sail on his back. As the subject of the Paint the Dino Coloring Contest, we’re anxious to see his custom paint job! Classified as a pelycosaur (mammal-like reptile), this guy walked the earth nearly 50 million years before dinosaurs. Don’t let his old age fool you, though…he destroys prey with not one, but TWO types of deadly teeth, hence his name meaning “two-form teeth.”

Triceratops

triceratopsThis three-horned, plant-munching dino is one of the most recognizable dinosaurs of all time and will make a great addition to the DCTL crew! Hailing from the good old US of A, Triceratops has gone up against some heavy hitters. Despite being preyed on by the great Tyrannosaurus rex, we’re confident he’s got what it takes to make 2014 our best exhibit season yet!

Giganotosaurus

giganotosaurusAnd lastly, weighing in at over 17,000 pounds with a length of 46 feet, Giganotosaurus is just that: GIGANTIC! Though no longer considered the largest land predator (thanks a lot Spinosaurus), he does beat out the 3 year, retired DCTL star and former “King of the Dinosaurs,” Tyrannosaurus rex as far as size. Still the largest creature at Reptiland by far, we’re trying to keep Giga‘s ego in check so his head doesn’t get too big (it’s big enough as it is).

 

Oh, and don’t forget about our static dinosaurs and their year-round presence on the Prehistoric Path. Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Coelophysis, Parasaurolophus, and our juvenile T. rex do a great job for us in the off-season!

Check out Dinosaurs Come to Life and witness these dinos in action when their season starts on April 19, 2014!


Venom Starts this Weekend!

Update 12/5/13:  This limited event has been extended through January 2014!

Just in time for Halloween, when ghoulish characters and terrifying monsters are lurking about, we’ve got our own creepy creatures here at the zoo…

Monsters and Dragons and Giants, OH MY!

Gila monsters, Komodo dragons, and a giant cane toad to be more specific, and you can see all of them starting this Saturday at 1:30 pm! Check out Venom: Nature’s Chemical Weapon.* This fascinating live event showcases venomous species in a safe, entertaining format. Featured animals include a variety of reptiles as well as a scorpion and the poisonous cane toad (neither of which are on display here at the zoo!).

Although this show introduces viewers to many widely feared species, it’s also meant to educate people on the benefits of venom, particularly in the medical field. For instance, many know the deadly effects of venom, but did you know that it is also used in several medications as a pain reliever and helps treat various heart conditions?

Venom dispels common myths, highlights the potential animal toxins offer for human medicine, and presents tips for safely enjoying nature in areas where venomous reptiles live. Visit us this weekend at 1:30 (or any weekend through December) to experience Venom LIVE!

BONUS: Get here early and witness a Komodo dragon feeding in our new Island Giants building!

*Featured as our 1:30 pm show only on weekends in November and December; all other show times feature our standard Reptile show.

The 5 Best (or Worst) Zoo Escapes

Last Tuesday, news of the missing red panda named Rusty rocked Washington (and the rest of the country) when the raccoon-resembling mammal escaped from the National Zoo in D.C.  Twitter was ablaze with tweets from stuffy politicians to humble animal-lovers, all bearing the same “#redpanda” reference.  After hours of news coverage, social media frenzy, and the National Zoo’s frantic search, Rusty was eventually located and returned to his rightful home.

In honor of Rusty’s recent retreat, we put together a list of the 5 best (or worst) zoo escapes.  Our personal favorite is the last one, but we’ll let you be the judge.

San Diego Zoo

5.  Escape Artist Extraordinaire–  Ken Allen, nicknamed “Hairy Houdini,” was a seasoned pro at the art of escaping; starting in the 1980s, Ken successfully escaped numerous times from his enclosure.  His deft escapes were so clever (and frequent) that his orangutan friends eventually learned his tricks of the trade and began freeing themselves as well!  Because of this, Ken quickly gained notoriety and celebrity status in San Diego, complete with t-shirts, his own fan club, and bumper stickers that read, “Free Ken Allen.”

gothamist.com

gothamist.com

4.  The Long Island Takeover of 1935– Frank Buck, an exotic animal collector, had his own animal park on Long Island where 170 Rhesus monkeys escaped from in 1935.  A plank of wood was left over a moat surrounding their area, inciting their breakout; naturally, chaos ensued!  The local law enforcement received countless complaints of “monkey business” throughout the island with these creatures climbing on houses and causes minor (and harmless) disturbances.  As a token of his appreciation for anyone willing to help recapture the escapees, Buck offered a reward for the missing monkeys– a season pass to his zoo!  Read more here.

Mike Burton/The Advertiser

3. Australian Love Triangle– In 2008, Satara, a 2 ton, 18 year old rhino stormed out of his enclosure in a jealous rage when his mate Yhura “left him” for a younger male.*  Satara fathered Yhura’s first baby in 2005, but apparently wasn’t up for fathering a second, hence the pairing of Yhura with another (younger) male.  The heartbroken Satara eventually made his way back to his pen after his anger (and jealousy) had subsided later that afternoon, and thankfully, minimal damage was done to other enclosures within the zoo.  *According to reports by zoo keepers at the Monarto Zoo in Australia.  Read more details of the sordid affair here.

courtesy of Japan's Coast Guard

Japanese Coast Guard

2.  Sayonara, Suckers– Just last year, a one-year-old Humboldt penguin escaped from his harborside residence at the Tokyo Sea Life Park in Japan.  Keepers at the park went on daily searches, but were unsuccessful in tracking him down.  After three months, and several reported sightings of the flightless fugitive swimming happily in the Tokyo Bay, a keeper at the aquarium finally spotted him walking along the bay.  The brave little penguin was ultimately recaptured by the keeper, and despite fears of radiation contamination in the water, the penguin appeared to be happy and healthy upon his return to the park. Click here to read more about this penguin’s 3 month Tokyo Bay vacay!

Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

1.  The Reptilian Recluse– Last but not least, the infamous (and nameless) naughty little Egyptian cobra that escaped from an off-exhibit holding cage at the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles.  Unclear of exactly how the sneaky snake got out, the World of Reptiles was closed while zoo staff searched for the venomous reptile.  According to Jim Breheny, Director, snakes are “shy, secretive creatures” and this one “would feel vulnerable and seek out a place to hide and feel safe” upon leaving her enclosure.  Fortunately, Mr. Breheny was absolutely correct; the 20 inch snake was discovered a week later in a nonpublic area of the Reptile House coiled up under a series of pipes and other equipment.  These days, you can catch her updating her twitter account on a regular basis @BronxZoosCobra (she’s got nearly 200,000 followers, too).  Find out more about how she was lost and found.