David Yahne

"I love my rewarding job."

Position: Curator of Horticulture

Responsibilities: The “Gardens” part of our name - Making sure the Grounds and the Sky Dome look spectacular.

Environmental factors, soil types, microclimates, seasons, and sun exposure are always on David’s mind. As the Head Gardner of Reptile Gardens, he and his team are responsible for the overall appearance of this garden oasis. David and his assistant Jada plan and design all flowerbeds and other plantings, purchase plants, and maintain the exterior grounds and the interior tropical foliage found in the Sky Dome.

He works with greenhouses across the country to find exotic plants and flowers and loves adding plants and flowers to the Reptile Gardens campus that people don’t see every day.

Caring for both tropical Dome plants and the myriad of greens throughout the Grounds requires constant attention.

“Each area presents a challenge. The light coming into the Sky Dome is subdued, so it’s tricky to find plants that can thrive in that environment; but outside, well…we do live in South Dakota and you never know what Mother Nature will bring next!”

David’s most memorable experience

“A few years ago, a little boy had his birthday party at Reptile Gardens. His family was new to the area, and sadly, no other children came to celebrate. My team and I could see the growing sadness on his face and the sheer worry on his mother’s. We decided to stop what we were doing and join the party. The Reptile Gardens staff made the birthday boy a VIP - we brought out special animals and gave him a behind-the-scenes tour. He thought it was the best birthday ever!”

His other talents include…

He also helps design animal exhibits and lends his aesthetic talents to other projects. He is involved in interviewing summer job applicants in the spring and takes a role in training the new staff members. Working with Reptile Gardens’ Bird Collection is his second favorite thing to do while on the job; especially since Queenie, a big white Cockatoo, has taken quite a liking to him and favors him above all others.


Things to know about David

  1. He is responsible for the wellbeing of over 40,000 flowers.
  2. He loves watching how the grounds progress through the seasons.
  3. His career at the Gardens began in 2001.
  4. Outside of work, he likes to be on the lake or working in his own yard.
  5. His favorite display is the orchids.

Dog Policy

We love all animals, wild and domesticated. Unfortunately due to a high number of recent incidents with dogs, our insurance company has advised us that we can no longer allow dogs, or other personal pets, on the Reptile Gardens grounds. ADA approved service dogs are, of course, allowed although there are three areas where they are not allowed for their safety and the safety of our animals. We do offer a shaded grassy area adjacent to our parking lot for walking your dog. We only ask that your pet be leashed and attended to at all times. You are welcome to come and go from the park as often as you like to tend to your dog. For more information, visit our FAQ Page


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