Zoo's new exhibit will make even the squeamish love reptiles

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Zoo's new exhibit will make even the squeamish love reptiles

Zoo Atlanta's immersive new experience gives children and adults an up-close and interactive look at nearly 100 snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, salamanders and more in stunning settings.

Before visiting Zoo Atlanta, here are 10 things to know about Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, which is included as part of the zoo's general admission ticket.

1. Scaly Slimy Spectacular's incredible environments are designed to depict creatures' real ecosystems. The exhibit has a bit of everything, including bamboo forests, mangrove swamps, and replicas of the Amazon River and the majestic rock formations of the Chiricahua National Monument near the Arizona-New Mexico border. "The environment mirrors the actual desert and then the tropics," said Keisha N. Hines, senior director of communications, strategic partnerships and innovation at Zoo Atlanta.

2. Scaly Slimy Spectacular cost $18 million and took nearly two years to build.

3. Reptiles and amphibians hang out in cool new settings featuring more than 9,700-square-feet of handcrafted rock work, a 30-foot naturalistic waterfall, and a river designed to mirror Georgia's Flint River system. The exhibits include about 60,000 gallons of water. "As you walk in, you see this giant waterfall and this beautiful lagoon, and then you turn a corner and you are in the middle of this beautiful wind-swept desert," said Rachel Davis, communications and social media manager for Zoo Atlanta. "There is really nothing else like it, certainly not in the zoo but even in the city."

4. Animals new to Zoo Atlanta include the Cuban false chameleon, Central American river turtle, Meller's chameleon and Smallwood's giant anole and more. A Cuban crocodile will be an exciting future resident. More than 60 exhibits within Scaly Slimy Spectacular feature more than 70 species for reptile- and amphibian-loving folks.

5. You can get your game face on with the Scaly Slimy Spectaculator. The interactive game at kiosks inside the experience invites visitors to answer questions for a chance to create a virtual animal. With more than 3,000 permutations, some crazy creatures will be generated.

6. The state-of-the-art building features a 45-foot-tall glass dome entrance that leads you into the 14,000-square-foot structure. The design will entice even squeamish people to step inside. The complex’s predecessor, the World of Reptiles, which opened in 1967 and is now closed to the public, was the zoo's oldest building still being used for public exhibits. 

7. On your walk to the dome, check out the outdoor exhibit that will soon be home of the zoo's Aldabra giant tortoises, which will move to the complex later this spring. During the summer, these creatures are active, usually moving in and around the pond and soaking up the sun's rays.

8. The Scaly Slimy Spectacular experience begins in the Georgia eXtremes building, which displays reptiles and amphibians native to the state. Georgia is home to a wide range of species, including North America’s largest freshwater turtle species, the alligator snapping turtle; North America's heaviest salamander, the eastern hellbender; and longest venomous snake, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. "Zoo Atlanta is often famous for our global collections and conservation efforts, but this is a really cool opportunity to showcase certain wildlife of our own backyard," Davis said.

9. Tech tools can help visitors identify animals and learn more about each species. On touch-screen tablets throughout the exhibit, guests can view pictures and videos of the featured reptiles and amphibians. If the digital displays are crowded, use your smartphone. Access animal info at ssspectacular.zooatlanta.org/map (the zoo has free Wi-Fi).

10. Scaly Slimy Spectacular not only houses some of Earth’s most endangered species — including the critically endangered Central American river turtle and the complex’s future resident Cuban crocodile — but it also showcases Zoo Atlanta’s global and local conservation work to protect imperiled reptiles and amphibians around the world. One conservation program protects the critically endangered Guatemalan beaded lizard, of which fewer than 200 are believed to remain in the wild. Visitors can see Guatemalan beaded lizards, considered some of the rarest lizards on the planet, in Scaly Slimy Spectacular. 

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