Fountain Valley’s Reptile Zoo upscales its space

The critters of Fountain Valley’s Reptile Zoo are getting more space to slither.

The family-run educational and amusement facility — long a destination for birthday parties, field trips and all-around appreciation of reptiles — will soon open a new wing that will allow more and bigger enclosures, plus an exhibit that shows the life cycle of a reticulated python from egg to adulthood.

“That’s not something you can get anywhere else,” said brand manager Laura Brewer.

The indoor zoo at 18822 Brookhurst St. is moving into adjoining suites, growing from about 8,500 square feet to close to 12,000. The expansion is expected to be open in about a month.

The Reptile Zoo has about 600 animals on display representing more than 100 species, mostly of the scaly variety. Many are tame enough for hands-on interaction.

Frank, a 7-foot-long Asian water monitor, may be known to Disney Channel viewers as a star of the sitcom “Jessie” and its spin-off, “Bunk’d.” When he’s not shooting in Hollywood, he’s at his Reptile Zoo home base, where he calmly sits for selfies. He’s familiar with cameras.

Frank’s neighbor, Darthgator the American alligator, sometimes gets out of his tank and waddles around on land, assuming he has his three handlers present and bands around his jaws. His kind is common along the Gulf Coast but not in Southern California.

A little less intimidating is Pancake, a bearded dragon. She’s about a foot long and has what looks like a wide, playful smile.

In addition to being home to Frank, Darth and Pancake, the Reptile Zoo houses chameleons and caimans, turtles and tortoises (terrapins too), dragons (bearded and water) and monsters (Gila). Frogs, toads, iguanas, skinks, geckos and anoles also live in its wall-to-wall cubbies and tanks, as do tarantulas, scorpions and millipedes.

Among the legless residents are plenty of kingsnakes, rat snakes, boas and pythons. Reptile Zoo founder Jay Brewer, Laura Brewer’s father, is a breeder of reticulated pythons known for his morphs, or color and pattern variations.

The Reptile Zoo has been around since 1988, first as a traditional and exotic pet shop. Over time, it came to focus on reptiles. It also has a retail area named Prehistoric Pets.

The business reopened last week after being closed to the public for more than three weeks until its expansion-related city permits were in order.

That led to some disappointed devotees. But Jay Brewer said he’s excited to welcome them back and show them something new.

“I’m a little kid, so I’m looking forward to playing with the people who come,” he said.

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