Meet the Animals in Small Mammal-Reptile House

Now that you’ve had one week to get adjusted to our new and exciting location in Regenstein Small Mammal Reptile House, it’s time to introduce you to the animals that live there! It’s one of my favorite locations for LEAP because there are SO MANY new critters to meet! The Small Mammal Reptile House is home to a wide range of animals from all over the world. When you enter the building, you can either go right, to visit the cool and colorful reptiles, or left, to check out the small and charming mammals.

Going right puts you in the reptile gallery, surrounded by things that slither, slide, climb, camouflage, and are covered in scales. Some animals you’ll spot here include poison dart frogs, a green tree python, a color changing chameleon, gecko, and a blue tailed monitor. A few of these animals are difficult to spot by design—evolving over time to blend into their surroundings in order to hide safely away or sneak up on their prey. You may also notice that many of the animals on this side of the building live alone, but they’re not lonely! Most reptiles (with few exceptions) are solitary animals; they prefer to face the world without a companion, only coming together to breed.  Some neat things to look for and think about while you explore:

  • Can you spot the brightly colored poison arrow frogs in their exhibit? While some animals blend in, others stand out! The blue color of these frogs is a warning to predators indicating they are poisonous and to stay away.

  • Check out the tail of the prehensile tailed skink! Having a prehensile tail means this type of skink can us its tail like an extra appendage, grasping tree branches and using it to climb.

  • Ever see a chameleon change color? The Meller’s chameleon can change the way its skin looks depending on its environment! What color will it be when you look?

We encourage you to spend time observing all the reptiles (and a few amphibians, too!) on this side of the building. As always, we love to look with you and hear about your discoveries!

If you walk into the building and go left, you’ll enter the mammal gallery. Being the small mammal building, you’ll find that all the mammals here are much smaller than you and your toddler, too! Contrary to reptiles, most mammals are social animals, preferring to live in a group that eats, sleeps, works, and plays together. On this side of the building, you’ll encounter armadillos, lion headed tamarins, dwarf mongoose, naked mole rats, and two types of fruit bats. At first look, the naked mole rats, nestled in tunnels below the mongoose, may look like the babies of their upstairs neighbors, but they’re actually two totally different species! Both groups are fascinating to watch and usually a favorite of our youngest zoo visitors. 

Continue walking and you’ll emerge from the dark into the brightly, naturally lit area we call the ecosystem. Here you’ll get to visit Asian small-clawed otters, caiman, dwarf crocodiles, tortoises, two-toed sloths (and baby!), a wallaby, Patagonian cavy, ants, and more! Phew! Did I mention there’s a lot to see in our new location? You may have noticed it’s a bit warmer in this part of the building. This space is designed to feel like you are walking through these animals’ natural habitat and they like it warm! Just as they would in the wild, some animals share their space with other species—the sloths cohabitate with cotton top tamarins while Prevost’s squirrels scurry above the heads of our otter pair. Drier spaces are home to red tortoises, a fennec fox, and a bizarre looking relative of the guinea pig—a Patagonian cavy! As you check out the different stations, try to look out for a few neat animals too!

  • There are five dwarf crocodiles in their exhibit. Can you spot them all?

  • The sloths’ favorite sleeping spot is nestled up under the roof of the straw colored hut. When these nocturnal animals aren’t in motion, they blend in perfectly with their surroundings. Keep a special eye out for a pint-sized sloth—this sloth pair recently welcomed a baby to the family!

  • Every wondered why Minnie, the fennec fox, has such big ears? Not only does she have excellent hearing, her ears help her stay cool in the dry desert heat!

  • As you have a blast at the art station, glance over at the wallaby. Though different species, wallabies and kangaroos are both marsupials and share quite a few characteristics, including their powerful legs!

We hope you enjoy the entire LEAP experience this fall. From getting dirty in the sensory bin to reading a story beneath a sleeping sloth, there is so much to see and explore! We’re so happy you’re here to learn and play with us!

--Emily Van Laan