The most misunderstood group of animals on the planet, reptiles are widely reviled as being cold, slimey and ugly. The reptile class includes snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles and tuataras.
Reptiles have been residents of planet earth for over 340 million years - they saw the dinosaurs arrive, reign and go extinct, they saw the first birds fly. However, in the last 50 years, the activities of man have driven many reptile species to extinction and many more will disappear in the next few years unless we do much more to help save them.
Although reptiles are cold-blooded, most are able to maintain their body temperatures within a very narrow range by moving between hot and cold areas usually by basking in the sun or seeking shade. At the zoo, our reptile enclosures are carefully designed to allow each animal to choose their ideal temperature.
Reptile skin is usually covered in scales, they have shelled yolk-filled eggs that are laid on land and from which the fully formed completely independent young are born. Some snakes and lizards retain their eggs and give birth to live young.
A reptiles metabolism can be very slow and with some large crocodiles and snakes intervals between meals may be months.
At Chester Zoo we have over 50 species of reptile including the Komodo Dragon, the worlds largest lizard; the Gila Monster and Beaded Lizard the worlds two species of venomous lizard; and the spectacular Gaboon Viper the snake with the longest fangs in the world. We are also one of only two places in Europe to keep the Tuatara, a living fossil which can live for over 100 years and now only occurs on a few islands off the coast of New Zealand.