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Scales and Tales

HOW BIG IS BIG? Facts from the World's Largest Reptile Zoo about Giant Reptiles and Snakes. — PART 2

As I mentioned in the first part of this post last week, our reward sign exists mostly to make a point that most reptile zoos fail to mention: not how big reptiles really get, but how big they really don't get.

But the Internet Never Lies!

In spite of regularly appearing stories on the Internet, there is no such thing as a 10-foot rattlesnake or a python or anaconda that was captured and found to genuinely be 40, 50, or 60feet long or any other giant reptiles that were found in some remote part of the world—let alone the suburbs or a reptile zoo. I cannot begin to tell you how many people have guaranteed us their grandpa, or uncle, or father saw, held, or killed a 9- or 10- or 11-foot rattler. Yet, no one—not even other reptile zoos—has ever been able to verify this or bring us an actual rattlesnake that's even 8 feet long. And, as we have thoroughly discussed in past blog posts, those many photos purporting giant reptiles, snakes and crocodilians on the internet are faked, often using forced perspective, or just outright lies. You can read two of my past posts on this subject here and here.



The African Connection That Never Panned Out

Some time ago I got a call from a man who said he was originally from South Dakota but now worked in the oil industry in Africa. He said he knew where 40-foot African Rock pythons were to be found. Apparently they were common in this one isolated remote area and he knew locals who would take him to capture them. Of course, he wanted to know if we would pay double the reward for a pair and also how to ship the giant reptiles to us. I told him without hesitation we would pay the reward for both a male and female pair of 40-foot pythons and even offered suggestions for shipping the giant reptiles to us. (I'm pretty free with our money when I know we won't be spending it!) The maximum size for an African Rock Python, by the way, is about 20 feet. And guess what? Yeah, we never heard from him again.

The verified record for the world's longest snake, the Reticulated Python from Asia, is 33 feet. And, although records for Anacondas are confusing, they probably don't get over 20 to 25 feet. However, a big anaconda can weigh up to a massive 300 pounds! No crocodile species alive today—in the wild, or in a reptile zoo—can reach a fabled 30 or more feet.

Reticulated-Python Reticulated Python


Green Anaconda Green Anaconda




Maniac, Cassius, and Lolong

The biggest crocodile species on earth is the Saltwater Crocodile of Australia and Southeast Asia. The absolute maximum length for a Saltwater crocodile, according to our friend George Craig at Marineland Melanesia on Green Island in Australia, is probably 22 or 23 feet. George has spent his life working with crocs - he knows his stuff. Our own giant Saltwater Crocodile, Maniac, is 15 feet 7 inches long so he has some growing to do.

Cassius the Crocodile, Green Island, Australia Cassius the Crocodile, Green Island, Australia


The largest crocodile ever confirmed was Lolong in the Philippines and he measured 20 feet 3inches. He was in captivity at reptile zoo in the Philippines for only a short time and unfortunately died in 2013. George Craig once again has the confirmed largest crocodile in captivity, Cassius, and he would easily measure 18 feet in length if he were not missing the tip of his tail and bit of his snout from his days chasing boats with outboard motors. Check out George's Facebook page for some really cool stuff!

South Dakota Giants

The records for giant reptiles in South Dakota are a bit less exciting:

  • The Prairie Rattlesnake, the only rattler found within about 400 miles of Reptile Gardens, has a record length of 71 ½ inches (a whole two feet and one-half inch short of that $25,000 reward). Honestly, in South Dakota a really big rattlesnake would be 4 feet long.

    Prairie Rattlesnake photographed in the Badlands Prairie Rattlesnake photographed in the Badlands



  • If you captured one of our often seen Plains Garter snakes that straightened out to a whole 43 ½ inches, you'd have a world record.

    Plains Garter Snake Plains Garter Snake



  • The red-bellied snake is rarely seen but common around here and would be a record setting giant at a mere 16 ¼ inches.

    Red-BelliedSnake Red-Bellied Snake


Next time you visit the Reptile Gardens, have a look at our reward sign on the upper level of the Sky Dome. Nearby you'll find the words: "How Big is Big" and underneath are lines painted to show the record lengths for giant reptiles, there's a line for a python and a line for an 8-foot rattlesnake. I know, I know, that rattlesnake you saw in the Badlands last summer just had to be bigger than that line we have painted on the wall! All I can say is: bring him in and we will give you $25,000.

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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!