Scales and Tales

Methuselah received 100 pounds of watermelon from The Perse Girls Junior School as a birthday gift.

RAPID CITY — Reptile Gardens' late giant tortoise Methuselah's last birthday gift was also his most special. The Galapagos tortoise generally received watermelon on his birthdays — but this year, the watermelon traveled all the way from the United Kingdom.

In honor of Methuselah's 130th birthday in June, Methuselah received 100 pounds of watermelon from The Perse Girls Junior School in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Little did anyone know that this would also be Methuselah's last birthday gift. The tortoise died of old age on July 10.

The school decided to send Methuselah the grand gift in celebration of its own 130th birthday. School librarian Niki Rogers was browsing the Internet for associations with 130 and landed on a search result mentioning Methuselah.

According to an interview with the Rapid City Journal, Rogers said she thought it would be "fun to do something different and raise some money for Methuselah."

John Brockelsby, public relations director for Reptile Gardens, said he was surprised to receive an email from the girls' school wanting to take part in Methuselah's birthday. He said he thought it was an excellent idea to tie in both birthdays.

According to Rogers, the girls were ecstatic to participate in Methuselah's birthday. To raise enough money for 100 pounds of watermelon — enough to feed Methuselah for a year — the girls held a raffle fundraiser.

In the interview with the Rapid City Journal, Rogers described the girls' enthusiastic reactions when she announced in an assembly that the school would work to raise money for Methuselah's big day. She said she showed the girls pictures of the Galapagos tortoise on an overhead projector. She even made Methuselah birthday bookmarks and raffled a stuffed Galapagos tortoise to generate excitement.

"Watermelon is Methuselah's favorite, and he enjoyed the gift immensely," said Brockelsby. "While we are all mourning his death, we are glad he was able to have such a special treat for his last birthday."

Methuselah was born in 1881 in the Galapagos Islands, and Earl Brockelsby — founder of Reptile Gardens — brought the giant tortoise to South Dakota's reptile conservatory in 1956. Six hundred pound Methuselah was one of Reptile Gardens' most popular family attractions.

To learn more about Reptile Gardens' hours, admission costs, and seasonal specials, call (605) 342-5873 or (800) 335-0275 or visit its website at

About Reptile Gardens

Founded in 1937, Reptile Gardens is a reptile park located in Rapid City, S.D. Their mission is to educate the public on important environmental issues, while working closely with many major zoos worldwide to promote species survival. Housing a large variety of unique reptiles, and exotic plants, this reptile zoo is actively involved within the local community and provides wildlife education for people of all ages.




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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

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Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

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This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!