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Sssecrets of the Herpetology Team

Lead Keeper of Herpetology Trent here! As always, my goal is to dig a little deeper with you all into what our department does when caring for reptiles, amphibians and fish. Today I thought it would be neat to discuss some very important aesthetics when it comes to the habitats the animals under our care live in. You may not think much of it when walking through Scaly Slimy Spectacular and seeing our diverse, multifunctional habitats, but every little detail often serves a purpose within each ecosystem we have created.

Logs, branches, plants and substrates, oh my! Our team designates a large portion of their time placing branches (sometimes called perching) and logs perfectly in each naturalistic habitat for the inhabitants to use. Every piece of “furniture” serves a purpose in our habitats. It may be functional for climbing or maybe strictly for digging under. It may provide an animal the opportunity to bask in front of all our wonderful guests or to hide under when they are feeling a bit shy. Each wood piece is hand selected by our team in order to best meet the needs of our animal as well as look pleasing to our and your own eyes. Remember, we also think about how all of you will end up viewing these habitats as well, and hopefully still be able to see the animal.

In the Herpetology Department we not only take care of reptiles, amphibians, and fish, but we also must have green thumbs! That’s right, we take care of large amounts of live plants. We do not all come into Herpetology with green thumbs, and some of us have a better knack than others when it comes to caring for plants, but we do strive to use as many live plants as possible in our habitats! With Scaly Slimy Spectacular having only been open since spring of 2015, we are still establishing plants and learning what truly flourishes and where. I think for that short amount of time, we really are exceeding in developing mature habitats! Of course, we always call on our handy Horticulture Team for advice and guidance for our non-animal friends when we need it the most!

So, we have logs and branches and even care for living non-animal things, but we also keep a close eye on the substrate that is the base to all these habitats! That’s right. Even the soil, rocks, woodchips, sand, moss, and leaf litter mixtures are all taken into consideration with these multifunctional, multidimensional habitats. Each has a unique blend of natural substrates that we have created for the animals to experience what they would naturally in the wild, truly enriching their lives. Creating a naturalistic landscape is not an easy task! We try our best to achieve a substrate that looks natural and lived in and appears as a snapshot from the natural habitat. The next time you are out in nature look around and take a second to see just how different substrates can be from place to place, even from foot to foot.

So, I just gave you all some more of our secrets we in the Herpetology Department rely on to continue to impress you with your visits to Zoo Atlanta but also to ensure that our animals are receiving the best care possible! The next time you see a habitat you may notice a few more things beyond the amazing animal, but also all the hard work and effort to provide that animal with outstanding care. If you have an artistic knack, you might even find some of our habitats particularly aesthetically pleasing, and now you will know that it was done on purpose! See you SSSoon.

Trent N.
Lead Keeper, Herpetology

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl