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Scales and Tales

Animal conservation key focus at Reptile Gardens

Animal appreciation starts with education.


Rapid City, S.D. — Education through entertainment is at the center of Reptile Gardens' animal conservation efforts.

To achieve this goal, Reptile Gardens donates money and auction items to charitable organizations like the Galapagos Conservancy and Idea Wild.

"Research in the Galapagos is one of our primary focuses," said Joe Maierhauser, Reptile Gardens' CEO. "We know that our funding isn't lost in some huge pool and that our money is making a real difference."

Maierhauser said Reptile Gardens donates money to the project each year. This year their donation was in honor of Methuselah, the Gardens' giant tortoise who died in July 2011.

Reptile Gardens' efforts are not all global. They donate to other local charities like the United Way. A local organization even sponsors a vortex coin collection machine that is located on the grounds. The exhibit provides extra monetary donations with half going to the local charity and half to the Galapagos Conservancy.

Through this fundraiser Reptile Gardens was able to donate more than 8-thousand dollars to Idea Wild, a conservation charity that donates equipment to scientists in need.

Another major aspect of animal conservation comes from educating the public —something that Reptile Gardens does quite well.

"People don't have an appreciation unless they are educated about the animal," said Terry Phillip, Curator of Reptiles at Reptile Gardens.

Phillip hopes that through education people will realize that they can make a global impact by practicing animal conservation techniques locally. This includes not killing the next snake that crawls through your backyard or shooting birds out of season.

Reptile Gardens utilizes conservation teaching through a variety of shows like the bird and alligator show.

Becky Beaton is Curator of Birds at Reptile Gardens. One of her primary duties is to educate people about native birds and how their role in the food chain is crucial to sustaining biodiversity.

"Some people have never seen a bird up close," Beaton said. "You need to have some form of a personal connection in order to start thinking about saving them.

Phillip explains that every animal has its place in the food chain.

"You take out any one thing and you're affecting everything ... from the predator at the top to the little guy at the bottom."

Whether it's through donations, entertaining, educating or being actively involved in the community, Reptile Gardens continues to be a firm advocate of animal conservation.

Their goal is to be fun but also impart education. This is one way to elicit the community and show that a little effort and a lot of passion can go a long way.

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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.

Gator Show stage

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. 

Living Wall

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!