Fort Worth Zoo opens state-of-the art reptile exhibit

Mountains & Desert (Fort Worth Zoo)

The Fort Worth Zoo has opened its reimagined and renovated Mountains & Desert habitat in a 7,200-square-foot facility that provides a state-of-the-art home for native Texas reptiles and amphibians.

The air-conditioned building is part of the zoo’s popular Texas Wild! exhibit and is also the new home of Texas Nature Traders, an educational program for children ages 3 and above.

Mountains & Desert houses more than 30 ectotherm (cold-blooded) species in specialized habitats designed for each animal, the zoo said in a news release. The habitats are equipped with adjustable lighting and heat sources along with humidity controls that are necessary to ensure individualized levels of care for each species.

“This new space highlights some of the Lone Star State’s critters that don’t always receive a lot of love, but are so very crucial to this arid ecosystem,” said Michael Fouraker, executive director of the zoo. “Many of the animals in Mountains & Desert are often referred to as ‘indicator species’ – when population numbers of one species declines, it indicates that the balance in the ecosystem is off and declines in other species may follow. This new building allows us to continue our mission of strengthening the bond between humans and wildlife by providing close-up experiences with animals and fostering an appreciation for some of these critical ‘creepy crawlies.’”

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“The opening of Mountains & Desert marks the beginning of a much larger project to rejuvenate all of Texas Wild!,” said Ramona Bass, chair of the Fort Worth Zoological Association board of directors. “For the last two decades, Texas Wild! has been well loved by more than 20 million people. Construction and renovation plans are still in the works, but this project is in motion!”

Mountains & Desert features a variety of educational messages that emphasize the plight of many threatened and endangered species. An in-depth look at the zoo’s acclaimed Texas conservation programs is highlighted through short video segments and a floor-to-ceiling infographic. The messages inform visitors about conservation challenges and offer practical ways to be part of the solution.

Texas Nature Traders (TNT) was established in 2013 as a one-of-a-kind formalized program that encourages children to explore the outdoors, learn about the environment and collect treasures from nature. Children find items such as fossils, rocks, bones and plants, learn all they can about them and then bring their knowledge and items to TNT to exchange for points. Traders interact with educators at TNT to expand their understanding of the objects collected and can save their points or redeem them for items in the Nature Trader inventory consisting of artifacts brought in by other children. Every sign in the large collection says, “please touch.” The TNT program is one of the ways the zoo seeks to inspire the next generation of land stewards and wildlife enthusiasts.

Information for this article was provided by the Fort Worth Zoo. More information can be found on the zoo’s website.