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Methuselah — Reptile Gardens' Beloved Mascot for 56 years.

Methuselah in 1970


On Sunday 9 July 2011 we were all saddened by the loss of our old friend and long-time animal resident, Methuselah the giant Galapagos Tortoise.

Methuselah arrived at Reptile Gardens in December of 1954 from the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, South America. He was flown to Miami and then transported by train to Rapid City. Thankfully, the crews of the rail freight company took good care of him, keeping him warm as he traveled from Florida to South Dakota in the dead of winter. He arrived in good health and adapted to life in South Dakota quite well. He joined a growing herd of giant tortoises already at the Reptile Gardens. The herd was made up of both Galapagos tortoises and Aldabra tortoises from the Seychelles Islands off the coast of Madagascar.


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75 YEARS AND GOING STRONG! CALLING ALL FORMER & CURRENT REPTILE GARDENS STAFF MEMBERS

Ray Pawley in his younger days.

Next year, 2012, Reptile Gardens will be celebrating its 75th anniversary. You know what that means? We are planning a fun staff reunion to celebrate this momentous anniversary.



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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.


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South Dakota's oldest living resident about to celebrate 130th birthday in June

Methuselah has seen a lot in the last 130 years!


May 20, 2011—Rapid City, S.D.—It will be a birthday celebration like no other. In fact, extensive planning and preparation is already underway. The guest list is unlimited and the fanfare will include free cake and pop for kids, prizes and giveaways, as well as a coloring contest. The owners and staff at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City are throwing this extravagant event in honor of the state's oldest living resident—Methuselah, a 129-year-old Galapagos tortoise.

Methuselah was born in 1881 in the Galapagos Islands. Earl Brockelsby, Reptile Gardens founder, brought the giant tortoise to South Dakota in 1956. Since then, the 600 pound Methuselah has become one of the most popular attractions at the reptile conservatory.

Public Relations Director for Reptile Gardens, John Brockelsby, explains the added significance of the creature's birthday celebration: "Both Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises are threatened with extinction in the wild. They have the potential to live more than 150 years, but not many in the wild ever have the chance—commercial expansion, agriculture, and predators have really affected the tortoises' life spans."

Reptile Gardens invites visitors to tour their Giant Tortoise Yard and meet the gentle creatures as a way to raise awareness and support for the protection of the endangered animals. The slow-moving giant tortoises, each with a uniquely colored and patterned shell, pose with children and adults for photographs in the petting area. Guests are able to experience the docile nature of these toothless, vegetarian giants.

Even though Methuselah probably won't be sharing any of his birthday treat—a giant watermelon—with Reptile Gardens visitors, guests can enjoy free cake and pop on Saturday, June 11th and Sunday, June12th. Prizes will be dispensed also, including fun prizes for coloring contest winners. Coloring sheets will be available at all Family Thrift Center locations in Rapid City.

With more than 200 species of reptiles at the park, families and visitors of all ages are guaranteed to have an exciting, and educational, experience. In addition to the large crowd of exotic residents, Reptile Gardens is home to Cheyenne, a majestic Bald Eagle, and a coterie of Prairie Dogs. Botanical-enthusiasts will enjoy strolling through the gardens—full of colorful flowers and lush vegetation like ornamental trees, tropical plants, orchids, and bromeliads.

To learn more about Reptile Gardens' hours, admission costs, and Season Pass specials, call (605) 342-5873 or (800) 335-0275 or visit their website at www.reptilegardens.com.

About Reptile Gardens

Founded in 1937, Reptile Gardens is a reptile park located in Rapid City, South Dakota. 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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Hey, Where's Your Top 10 Most Deadly Snakes List?

Rhinoceros Viper


For many years we had an immensely popular "Top Ten Most Venomous Snakes" list posted here at the Reptile Gardens and, subsequently, on our web site. Many of you remember this list and have asked about it. We get thousands of web search hits to our site every year looking for just such a list.


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New Year, New Web Site!

We have just launched a new, totally revised Reptile Gardens web site. Things change fast in the cyberworld and we do our best to keep up. It took months of work by our staff and the folks at Robert Sharp and Associates to get things exactly like we wanted them and it is finally done. We think this new site with its simpler interface will be easier to negotiate - visitors will be able to quickly find what they are looking for. It will also work nicely on mobile devices.


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Visit Santa This Week At Reptile Gardens

Starting this Saturday the 18th of December Santa will be here every day through Christmas Eve. Bring the kids to meet Santa and take your own photos with him. Reptile Gardens is the only place where you can take your photo not only with Santa but also include Fluffy the Gator or Marilyn the Albino Python in the photo. The most unique Christmas photos ever. And it is FREE too!


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You Guys Have It Easy Out There Now That The Tourists Are Gone

Today's blog combines a column written in 1967 by long-time General Manager Jim Campbell with updates and additions from me.

By the way, we aren't anywhere near closing yet. We're open until the end of the year.



Those of us who work here all year around frequently hear this question come fall: "S'pose you're all set to loaf for the winter? You are closed now, right? All your animals hibernate don't they?"


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Reptile Gardens' Green Team - Recycle and Reuse

Here at Reptile Gardens, we learn a lot from our animal friends. For instance, did you know that many snake species lie absolutely motionless for long periods of time after a big meal? In large pythons it can be weeks! The snakes take a siesta, because energy is precious to cold-blooded animals, and they can conserve this energy by eliminating all unnecessary movement. We've taken this lesson to heart, and have organized a "Green Team" to identify ways to eliminate waste, and conserve resources around the Gardens.

Our Green Team, led by Assistant Manger Clint Hubbeling, has come up with a number of great ideas to conserve, such as: Reusing office paper by printing on both sides of the paper.

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It is Spider Season! Black Widows and their Friends.



Black Widow showing belly marking, not always a perfect hourglass.


As warm weather approaches, we start getting calls about spiders and odd bugs people find in their garages, storage sheds, yards, and houses. The most common calls we get are in regard to spiders, especially black widows, brown recluse and a mysterious GIANT! spider that seems to strike fear in all who see one. The latter would be the common wolf spider.

Out of the tens of thousands of spiders in the world, only a few are dangerous to humans. The most common dangerously venomous spiders in the US are the Black Widow, the Brown Recluse, and the Hobo spider - and they rarely bite people. Far more people die each year of bee and wasp stings that from spider bites. And by the way, it is just a myth that the common daddy longlegs spider is extremely deadly - there is no scientific evidence to back up this fanciful tale.


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Reptile Gardens wins South Dakota Family-Owned Business of the Year Award

Brockelsby family honored for generations of success

Fresh off of their April 1 season opening, Rapid City family attraction Reptile Gardens has been named the 2010 South Dakota Family-Owned Business of the Year by the Small Business Association District Office.

Founded by Earl Brockelsby more than 70 years ago, the Black Hills reptile park is still managed by Earl's children, grandchildren, and nephew. The Brockelsby family and park staff are dedicated to the continued success of Reptile Gardens, which today houses more species of reptiles than any other zoo or park in the world.


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Mac the Scarlet Macaw

Mac the Scarlet Macaw posing for one of his many portraits


On Wednesday, 10 March, we lost one of the very few living creatures that has been at Reptile Gardens longer than even us long-timers, Mac our Scarlet Macaw.

Like most parrots in the days before wildlife laws and captive breeding, Mac was captured in the wild, in South America. He was brought to the US in the early 1950's and arrived here at Reptile Gardens as a large adult bird in 1956. We estimate his age at the time of his death to have been over 70 years.

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Rapid City Reptile Park readies for first spring visitors

Black Hills attraction offers adventure, excitement for whole family

Reptile Gardens has been a staple of the Black Hills family entertainment industry for decades, drawing thousands of visitors each year to view exotic animals up close. With just days to go before the park's season opening, staff are eagerly anticipating the upcoming flood of visitors.


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More Rattlesnakes in the Black Hills

RattlesnakeRattlesnake


A recent question about rattlesnakes prompted us to write this post, since we figured it may be helpful to many people in the Black Hills area.

The question involved concerns that there has been an increase in the population of rattlesnakes, or that there was a nearby den of snakes that contributed to increased snake encounters and danger to children and pets.


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About Us

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 some of the most exotic 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!