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Scales and Tales

Animal conservation key focus at Reptile Gardens

Animal appreciation starts with education.


Rapid City, S.D. — Education through entertainment is at the center of Reptile Gardens' animal conservation efforts.

To achieve this goal, Reptile Gardens donates money and auction items to charitable organizations like the Galapagos Conservancy and Idea Wild.

"Research in the Galapagos is one of our primary focuses," said Joe Maierhauser, Reptile Gardens' CEO. "We know that our funding isn't lost in some huge pool and that our money is making a real difference."

Maierhauser said Reptile Gardens donates money to the project each year. This year their donation was in honor of Methuselah, the Gardens' giant tortoise who died in July 2011.

Reptile Gardens' efforts are not all global. They donate to other local charities like the United Way. A local organization even sponsors a vortex coin collection machine that is located on the grounds. The exhibit provides extra monetary donations with half going to the local charity and half to the Galapagos Conservancy.

Through this fundraiser Reptile Gardens was able to donate more than 8-thousand dollars to Idea Wild, a conservation charity that donates equipment to scientists in need.

Another major aspect of animal conservation comes from educating the public —something that Reptile Gardens does quite well.

"People don't have an appreciation unless they are educated about the animal," said Terry Phillip, Curator of Reptiles at Reptile Gardens.

Phillip hopes that through education people will realize that they can make a global impact by practicing animal conservation techniques locally. This includes not killing the next snake that crawls through your backyard or shooting birds out of season.

Reptile Gardens utilizes conservation teaching through a variety of shows like the bird and alligator show.

Becky Beaton is Curator of Birds at Reptile Gardens. One of her primary duties is to educate people about native birds and how their role in the food chain is crucial to sustaining biodiversity.

"Some people have never seen a bird up close," Beaton said. "You need to have some form of a personal connection in order to start thinking about saving them.

Phillip explains that every animal has its place in the food chain.

"You take out any one thing and you're affecting everything ... from the predator at the top to the little guy at the bottom."

Whether it's through donations, entertaining, educating or being actively involved in the community, Reptile Gardens continues to be a firm advocate of animal conservation.

Their goal is to be fun but also impart education. This is one way to elicit the community and show that a little effort and a lot of passion can go a long way.

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