by Sara Horton
That's what the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo would like visitors to learn from its newly renovated reptile exhibit, anyway.
More than 40 species of scaly residents are settling into their gallery-space-like homes in the Scute Family Gallery. No, there isn't a background story about the Scute family, and none of its members paid for the building's funding. A scute, reads a zoo document, is just "a bony external plate or scale, like you might find on a turtle or alligator."
The building, formerly known as the Bird and Reptile House, was vacant for the past four years. Six months ago, a crew started to revamp it into an urban loft with natural brick, concrete floors and natural skylights. It's been open to the public since the first week of May, but the finishing touches were completed about a week ago. The Scute Family Gallery includes, among other fun features, plenty of reptile-inspired art, a swimming pool for two baby American alligators and a room separate from the main gallery for the snakes.
"In addition to capitalizing on the beauty of the animals," says Nicole Mantz, education curator, "we really wanted people who may not be so excited about reptiles, and especially snakes, to have a wonderful experience, which is why all the snakes are in our middle area.
"So, if you have a fear of snakes, you don't have to go in there. We want people to just take a moment to see their beauty, and to start to understand more about reptiles and to really start to take that next step in seeing them as something not so fearful ... We're coming about it in a completely different way than what we might normally do."
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's $13.5 million Encounter Africa capital campaign funded the renovation. Encounter Africa has three phases, the first being the recently completed elephant barn. The next phase will begin this fall with the addition of the new African elephant and meerkat exhibits and the introduction of an endangered black rhino. The final phase will be the completion of the African lion exhibit next summer. Concept art and the site plan are available here.
Clearly, inhabitants are thrilled with their artsy new playthings, colorful glass beads and neon sands. Just look at this smile:
Until you can see the place for yourself, check out the teasers below the jump.