Reptile Revelry: Celebrating the Reopened Animal Discovery Zone

November 1, 2023

On Saturday, October 21, The Lawrence bustled with visitors who had arrived just as the museum opened its doors. While most of our interactive exhibits are on A-level, these visitors were on a mission, beelining straight downstairs to C-level. Who could blame them? They were about to be among the first to meet several new animal friends and experience the newly renovated Animal Discovery Zone!

“Years of work went into creating this space, and it would not have been possible without the commitment from an incredible group of people.”

Alondra Blandon, ADZ Lead

“We are so excited to share the newly reimagined Animal Discovery Zone with our community!” said Alondra Blandon, Animal Discovery Zone Lead. “The renovations allow us to increase the hours that visitors can access the Animal Discovery Zone, providing more opportunities for the public to see and interact with student staff providing the day-to-day care of the animals as well as more time to observe and learn about the animals at their own pace.”

Among the most beloved experiences at The Lawrence, the Animal Discovery Zone had been closed for renovations since this spring. New, larger enclosures housing reptiles and amphibians greeted visitors as they entered the exhibit. More than just a fresh coat of paint, the renovations reimagined the exhibit with new animals and new opportunities to learn from our creature teachers.

“Isn’t a legless lizard just a snake?” asked one young visitor as they explored the exhibit.

The Lawrence facilitator explained to the kid and their family that, while Indiana the legless lizard may look like a snake, she is actually a different animal. Over millions of years, Indiana’s ancestors developed shorter and shorter legs until they disappeared altogether. Indie is a prime example of animal adaptation, one of three themes explored in-depth in the renovated exhibit. Visitors observed the vibrant colors of animals like Xonga the Brazilian rainbow boa to learn about color in nature, and examined Einstein the axolotl’s aquatic habitat to learn about humans’ impact on different ecosystems.

A Member family in the photo booth at the Animal Discovery Zone Member Preview
A Member family in the photo booth at the Animal Discovery Zone Member Preview

“What do you think its name should be?” a mother asked her child as they peered into a new enclosure housing the tiny veiled chameleon.

The family continued their discussion as they crossed the hall to our Member Lounge, where Lawrence members enjoyed animal crackers and engaged with additional special activities. On the whiteboard, kids wrote their suggested names for the color-changing critter, drawing inspiration from anime characters, famous musicians, and, of course, excellent animal puns. While the race was close, the name garnering the most votes was Delta (for the scientific symbol indicating change). Members also grabbed punny props to pose in our photo booth, told us their favorite animals, and entered a raffle for some animal-themed prizes.

Members weren’t the only ones taking in the sights and sounds of the new exhibit. Also in attendance was Suzanne Burgess of Aunt Anna’s Reptile Rescue. Animal Discovery Zone staff worked with Aunt Anna’s to source several new reptiles that now call The Lawrence home. Suzanne happily greeted King Arthur the black and white tegu, who seemed to recognize his old friend instantly.

“I’m so happy these animals will be a part of educational programs,” said Suzanne. “It’s just wonderful to see them in their new home.”

King Arthur the black and white tegu
King Arthur the black and white tegu

“Years of work went into creating this space, and it would not have been possible without the commitment from an incredible group of people, including our UC Berkeley student animal care team and Animal Discovery Zone Leads, our Production Studio and Facilities team, and other contributors from across The Lawrence who helped edit, advise on, and design the beautiful graphics seen around the new exhibit,” said Alondra Blandon.

As excited as we were to share this first glimpse of the new Animal Discovery Zone, we still have more new animal encounters in store for our visitors and members. We’re putting the finishing touches on an additional area of the exhibit that will house even more animals, including chinchillas, rabbits, box turtles, and more! This zone is specially geared towards our littlest visitors and will open this winter. In the meantime, King Arthur, Indiana, Einstein, and the other reptiles and amphibians in the Animal Discovery Zone can’t wait to meet you!

Recent News Stories