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.



Main Exhibits






Other Reptiles

Amphibians and Bugs

Native to South Dakota


Botanical Gardens




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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 Funtier Town

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing, go on a 3D safari, or test your aim at the shooting gallery! Our very own old west ghost town has 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!