When Scaly Slimy Spectacular opens on Thursday, Zoo Atlanta will not only show off its new reptile and amphibian house, but also a slick new way to learn about the 100 snakes, frogs, turtles, and lizards that inhabit it.
Instead of the usual plastic markers, the habitats are outfitted with tablet-sized touch screens, where zoo goers can learn about the creatures, look at photos, and even watch video clips. Visitors can access the same displays on their smartphones by connecting to free zoo Wi-Fi and visiting a special page on the zoo’s website. (The smartphone display seemed a little more fluid and responsive than the screens when we tried it out during a media preview on Friday, but hopefully that’s just a kink that will be worked out in time.) This high-tech upgrade is an interesting way to let visitors learn more about the animals in front of them, and technology has struck gold for Zoo Atlanta before. After all, where would we be without the Panda Cam?
The habitats themselves are stunning. Each is tailored to look like the home environment of the creatures within, like the re-created Everglades-esque swamp for the diamondback terrapin. Visitors entering the reptile house pass a 30-foot waterfall, part of the Cuban crocodile tank, before entering a room of tall desert rock sculptures. In another room of the exhibit, a colorful comic book wall teaches young guests about predator and prey.
The complex replaces the Zoo’s “World of Reptiles,” one of the oldest buildings on the grounds. The 70 species housed include the animals from the old reptile house and some, like the Cuban crocodile, who are brand new to the zoo.