Scales and Tales

Conservation is For the Birds — No, Really

Ever year, Reptile Gardens, located in Rapid City, South Dakota welcomes thousands of visitors. Some of the highlights of this unique attraction include the alligator, snake and bird shows. These shows are meant to educate, entertain, and inspire. One show in particular also helps to support biodiversity. By definition, biodiversity is the variety of life on earth including all plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms.

Queenie the cockatoo and Ruby the macaw have a small portion of the Bird Show dedicated to showing their money making — or shall we say money taking skills. Under the direction of Bird Department Curators Julia Kittelson and Becky Beaton, these talented birds accept donations from visitors and place money into a donation box. During the summer of 2013 this resulted in almost $20,000 in donations.
Where does the money go? On Sunday, September 22, the Black Hills Raptor Center held Art on the Wing. The Center rescues, and cares for injured or ill birds of prey from around the country. This fundraiser consisted of various artists creating original pieces in their medium of choice, using the Center's feathered friends as their muse. There was a People's Choice vote for one dollar per vote, and a live auction of the pieces.

Reptile Gardens' Curator of Birds, Julia, presented the Black Hills Raptor Center with a check for $2,700 during this event. These funds were also collected by the birds, Queenie and Ruby, during the summer daily bird shows.

Rapid City native Wally Van Sickle began a conservation effort in 1991 named Idea Wild. The purpose of the organization is to minimize the loss of biodiversity by empowering people who work on the front lines of conservation efforts in developing countries. This non-profit organization has supported over 2300 projects in 70 developing countries since its inception over 22 years ago. More information and detailed stories of their efforts can be found at

On August 17, Bird Dept Curators Julia Kittelson and Becky Beaton presented $17,404 to Wally VanSickle during the event Concert for Conservation, which featured Kory and the Fireflies, held in Main Street Square, Rapid City.

Reptile Gardens is dedicated to preserving wildlife and their habitats and is proud to support many wildlife and conservation organizations.



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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!