Remarkable Reptiles – A New Exhibit

By Chris Collier, Senior Director, Operations & Exhibits

VINS new exhibit – Scales and Shells: Remarkable Reptiles – is in a new location (next to the Birds Are Dinosaurs exhibit in the Neale Pavilion), which provides our reptile ambassadors much larger, updated, bioactive enclosures.

While most well-known for our avian ambassadors, VINS is currently home to four reptiles. The Corn Snakes, Wilmington and Marlboro, have been with VINS since 2008. Jersey, an Eastern Box Turtle, came to live at VINS in 2018 after being kept as a pet for more than 30 years. Turt, the Wood Turtle is the oldest ambassador animal at VINS and has been here since 1984.

The new reptile exhibit features a 450-gallon enclosure for the Corn Snakes that allows them to climb, dig, and bask in a variety of different locations. Locally-sourced natural materials were used to create the climbing structures for these semi-arboreal snakes, and live plants help retain humidity in the enclosure and improve the air quality.

Jersey and Turt’s new enclosures feature reptile-safe plants such as dandelions and grasses, which are high in vitamins and antioxidants. Turt’s new tank also features a swimming area more than ten times larger than her previous enclosure, with a custom-built rock ramp to help her get onto land to bask.

These bioactive enclosures are good for the reptiles and the VINS staff. Short for “biologically active,” bioactive enclosures contain tiny invertebrate animals, like isopods and springtails. These small creatures consume dead and decomposing organic matter in the soil, making the carbon available to plants and keeping the enclosure clean. This means the tank will need less maintenance over time. A drainage layer underneath ensures that the reptiles will enjoy living in a healthy, cycling ecosystem, ideally resembling what they might experience in the wild.

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