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Scales and Tales

Tag > Giant Reptiles

Marv Basham



Reptile Gardens just lost its last link to the past, Marv Basham (1917-2011). Until yesterday, Marv was the last person still around who was here on opening day in June of 1937. He had helped build our original buildings and did a lot of other things back in the day when the crew consisted of just a handful of people and everyone did whatever was needed.


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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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Practical Jokes at Reptile Gardens

Reptile Gardens' founder Earl Brockelsby (1916-1993) was notorious for his elaborate & sometimes nasty practical jokes. Among them were:


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Back When the Sky Dome was New

David, Jada, Clint and the rest of the staff have been really busy in the Sky Dome since we closed for the season. They have done a lot of work on the mezzanine level and even more in the Safari Room, painting, planting new plants, moving cacti, and more.

With all this work going on in the Dome I was reminded of when it was built and of the big tree that is still the centerpiece. This is an article that ran in the Rapid City Journal in 1964.


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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...or United Nations?

Many people do not know that the Black Hills was one of the top finalists in the search for a location for the United Nations.

The beginnings of what was to become the United Nations were set in motion back in 1941. By 1942 the term United Nations, coined by Franklin Roosevelt, was first used. Over the next few years the UN Charter was created and ratified and a search was begun for a place to house this new international organization.


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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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HOW TO CARE FOR A DEAD TREE

This week I am posting a column written 44 years ago by long-time Reptile Gardens General Manager, Jim Campbell. In 1965, Reptile Gardens ran a series of newspaper columns in celebration of the move to our new location on Highway 16. For our first 28 years we had been closer to town but were forced to move when the highway was widened and moved.

Safari Room in 1965




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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!