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This past weekend I had the privilege of visiting the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens where I had a warm experience among cold blooded animals at the Zoos newest exhibit, the LAIR – Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles.

The Zoo is also home to more than 1,100 animals representing more than 250 different species of which 29 are endangered. In addition, the Zoo’s botanical collection comprises several planted gardens and over 800 different plant species with over 7,400 individual plants. Needless to say, you could spend an entire day exploring the 133 acre lot, just as I did.

After visiting some exhibits and building the suspense, I made my way to the LAIR. The new exhibit houses the Zoo’s dynamic collection of reptiles and amphibians in themed areas with hand-painted murals including Oak Woodland Pond, Bite and Squeeze, Care and Conservation Room, Arroyo Lagarto, Crocodile Swamp and Desert LAIR. Each area transports you to its respective habitat and you see the critters in their natural environment.

The facility encompasses several visually stunning areas that include habitats for various unique and endangered species. LAIR is one of the few reptile and amphibian-focused facilities to open within the past decade in a North American Zoo. The collection includes the Chinese giant salamander, venomous snakes, poison dart frogs, Gila monster, Fly River turtle, radiated tortoise, and much more such as these colorful monitors. Keep a sharp eye out as many of the creatures are camouflaged and hard to find.

Skylights peek through the mural canopy showcasing a dazzling array of snakes in Betty’s Bite and Squeeze room named after Betty White, co-chair of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. The serpent species include the Mangshan viper, a venomous snake from the mountains of China; a fast slender arboreal snake from Africa; and the bushmaster, the largest venomous snake of the Americas. My favorite snake was this white Isla Santa Catalina rattlesnake. Ironicaly, the most distinctive feature of this rattler is the lack of the rattle. The base of the rattle is degenerate, so the rattle segment falls off as it is formed.

Next, we ventured into the Southwest Desert Building which represents the semi-arid desert climate of Mexico, Arizona, and my own backyard – Southern California. The Desert LAIR houses snakes, lizards, turtles, and scorpions. Visions of lightening and the sounds of thunderstorms and monsoons wisp through the exhibit mimicking the weather sporadically encountered in these dry climates. Don’t forget your umbrella!

After exiting the exhibit I passed by the endangered species’ pool to get a glimpse of the intimidating false gharials of Southeast Asia that can reach a length of 15 feet long. This area also offers a good photo opportunity.

By now I had worked up an appetite and ventured over to the giraffe exhibit for lunch. The weather was perfect and the meal satisfying. The overall Zoo experience was exciting and enlightening, I recommend visiting the Zoo and LAIR exhibit before they go extinct.

WHEN: Monday – Sunday | 10 am – 5 pm
WHERE: Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens | 5333 Zoo Drive | Los Angeles, CA 90027

CONTACT INFO: (323) 644-4200 or


  • Tickets: Adults $16, Children (2-12) $11, Children under 2 free, Senior Citizens (62 and older) $13 and Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) members are free
  • Parking: free

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