First look: inside London Zoo’s brand-new reptile house

Giant salamanders, some of the world’s largest frogs and a king cobra are just some of the awe-inspiring animals that visitors will be able to spot at London Zoo’s new reptile house, which will open this Bank Holiday weekend. The experience called ‘Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians’ will be home to some of the planet’s most fascinating and secretive species and open on Friday March 29. 

There will be a total of 33 different species living in the exhibition, which hopes to shine a spotlight on London Zoo’s (ZSL) global conservation efforts. Among the animals are two Chinese giant salamanders, the planet’s largest amphibians, which were rescued from being smuggled in a cereal box in 2016 before coming to live in the zoo.

A black and gold reptile
Photograph: Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

Visitors will also be able to spot critically endangered mountain chicken frogs for the first time – some of the world’s largest and most threatened frogs. The enormous frogs were once widespread across the Caribbean until a killer fungus was introduced to their habitat. In the early 2000s a team including a ZSL scientist discovered chytrid fungus had wiped out more than 90 percent of the population. Other fascinating creatures include Mangshan vipers, a turtle with a head so large it can’t fit inside its shell, and a 1.9 metre-long Philippine crocodile.

A big headed turtle underwater
Photograph: Zoological Society of London (ZSL)A big-headed turtle

For anyone wondering how they’re keeping all the different animals under one roof, the new enclosure has been meticulously designed to meet every need of its inhabitants – with each of its 33 species having individual, and very precise, requirements for temperature, humidity, water quality and lighting. The custom-built facility features 11 different climate-controlled zones, more than 50 aquatic systems, and the Zoo’s specialist horticulture team has carefully planted each habitat to provide shade, egg laying sites, basking locations and camouflage areas for the very particular residents. 

You can book tickets to see these wonderful creatures at London Zoo online here

While you’re there, you can see London Zoo’s newly born baby gorilla.

Listen to Time Out’s brilliant podcast ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’: the newest episode with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in Greenwich is out now.

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