A good selection of California native reptiles and amphibians are among the 60 species that will be on display at the new Los Angeles Zoo exhibit aptly named the LAIR (Living Amphibian, Invertebrates and Reptiles) slated to open to the public on March 8.
Most folks will probably enjoy getting nose to nose with a Pacific rattlesnake or a California king snake at the zoo rather than coming upon them while out hiking or walking the dog. That’s part of the “fatal” attraction the public has to these creepy critters, says Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles and amphibians.
“People love seeing animals that scare them in a safe environment,” he says. “This is going to be one of our more popular attractions at the zoo.”
NOT SCARY. BUT NOT REAL EITHER.
We hope the residents will take to their fancy new digs. At a recent sneak peek, zoo staff was busy putting the finishing touches on the six exhibit spaces that take up two buildings and a courtyard just down the hill from the merry-go-round. Glass enclosures feature subfloor heating, UV basking lights as well as plenty of natural light from skylights. Live plants are intermingled with fake ones. All in all, pretty snazzy.
While the main LAIR houses all kind of strange and exotic lizards, mambas and poison dart frogs (many endangered or critically endangered), we are very partial to an outdoor area dubbed Oak Woodland Pond, a space set aside to see if Griffith Park critters – like Western fence lizards – will hunker down and volunteer to be display creatures. Around the corner, the Native Ring or Arroyo Lagarto will showcase desert iguanas and desert tortoises.
The smaller Desert LAIR building features animals from the four Southwestern deserts of Chihuahua, Sonora, Mojave and the Great Basin. Sonoran toads, gopher snakes and desert hairy scorpions will soon be checking out their new environs.
All in all, we’re glad to see that our natives will be well represented at the new exhibit – with the exception of our local endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs which are off limits to the public. Recchio has been overseeing the current conservation effort; last year 160 little jumpers were released into the wilds of the San Jacinto Mountains. Yellow-legged mamas are expected to start laying eggs in the next few weeks in their secluded and chilly zoo locale.
The zoo’s other conservation programs will, however, be in the spotlight at the new “Care and Conservation Room” which reminds us of the glass fishbowl that show paleontologists at the Page Museum working with fossils. Zoo guests can watch behind-the-scenes activities such as reptile egg storage, nursery, food prep, etc. We’re hoping to catch a glimpse of something along these lines:
— Brenda Rees, SoCalWild