The Los Angeles Zoo is opening a snazzy new home for reptiles and amphibians today, a $14-million condominium complex for Mexican beaded lizards, Rowley's palm vipers, radiated tortoises and other creatures that slither and croak.
The LAIR — the acronym for Living Amphibians, Invertebrates and Reptiles — was five years in the making and will be one of just a few reptile houses to open in North America in the last decade.
"We've got one of the best in the nation," zoo Director John Lewis said as workers prepared by cleaning display windows, planting feathery ferns, adjusting temperature and humidity controls and using metal hooks to place venomous snakes carefully into their spacious new homes.
LAIR will house 49 exhibits and 60 species. That is fewer than lived in the old reptile house, "but we'll do a better job in terms of meeting the needs of the animals, producing breeding stock and showing them off to the public," Lewis said. The old reptile house had well over 100 species on display in its heyday, but many were housed in small aquarium settings.
-- Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times