Reptiles, snakes and rodents getting a brand new residence at Decatur’s Scovill Zoo

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Reptiles, snakes and rodents getting a new home at Decatur’s Scovill Zoo



The interior of the Herp Aquarium is being renovated Friday at Scovill Zoo in Decatur. The reptile building will be completed in April when the zoo reopens for the 2023 season.


Joseph Ressler, Herald & Review

DECATUR – Remnants of where the animals once lived at Scovill Zoo Herp Aquarium are faint.

The four walls of the building will remain, but the interior will be completely new for the animals and visitors by the 2023 summer season.

“We’re on our second dumpster,” Mark Dyson, Decatur Park District’s assistant site manager, said of the cleanup effort. “In the first two days we had all the actual structures down.”



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Animal care intern Tommy Ni moves a woma python for a cage cleaning at Scovill Zoo in Decatur. The reptiles will remain in another temperature-controlled building while the herpetarium is renovated.


Joseph Ressler, Herald & Review

The project started in the first week of December. In the meantime, the animals will be housed in a temperature-controlled eco-centre at the zoo.

According to Ken Frye, director of Scovill Zoo, the next phase begins after the New Year.

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“But it’s all weather dependent,” he said. “I’m optimistic.”



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A green tree python sits in a temporary housing at Scovill Zoo in Decatur on Friday. The reptiles will all remain in a different temperature-controlled building while the herpetarium is renovated.


Joseph Ressler, Herald & Review

Christy Foltz was hired as general contractor. The project is expected to cost approximately $420,000, which will include plumbing, electrical, lighting, facade and civil works. “The project is funded by a museum grant from the (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) as well as private donations,” said Clay Gerhard, executive director of the park district.

The Herp Aquarium was added to Scovill Zoo in the 1980s. Frye’s original goal was to give the animals a modernized home. “I just wanted to up the look,” he said. “But we had one donor who donated over $100,000 from her parents’ estate.”



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Director Ken Frye points to a blood python in temporary housing at Scovill Zoo in Decatur on Friday. The reptiles will remain in another temperature-controlled building while the herpetarium is renovated.


Joseph Ressler, Herald & Review

Along with the grant, the additional funds gave the Park Board the ability to provide a comfortable home for both guests and animals. Façade and roof have already been renewed.

“It’s going to be a little more impressive,” Frye said.

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Herp Keeper Ryan Kirkland works closely with the animals and understands their needs. “There are more reptiles and amphibians there than fish,” he said.



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The interior of the herpetarium is being renovated at Scovill Zoo in Decatur on Friday. The reptile building will be completed in April when the zoo reopens for the 2023 season.


Joseph Ressler, Herald & Review

The snakes, insects and reptiles each have their own environments, Kirkland explained. Some animals need dry air, others strong humidity. A python also needs more space than a naked mole rat.

Kirkland and others who work closely with the reptiles contributed to the design of the new house.

“We were all very involved in the planning and trying to come up with good ideas and good designs for all the exhibits that will be on display,” he said.



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The interior of the herpetarium is being renovated at Scovill Zoo in Decatur on Friday. The reptile building will be completed in April when the zoo reopens for the 2023 season.


Joseph Ressler, Herald & Review

Over time, some animals may be added to the Herp Aquarium.

One of the innovations will be larger exhibits. “So the animals have better lives, bigger houses to live in,” Kirkland said. “That means there will be fewer exhibits when it’s finished, but it’ll be bigger and better.”

PHOTOS: Scovill Zookeepers tend to the animals during winter weather

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Zoo keeper Mindy Weaver feeds Finn at Scovill Zoo on Thursday. Visit herald-review.com to see more photos and videos.


CLAY JACKSON HERALD & REVIEW

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Intern Sean Linehan (left) and Assistant Director Dave Webster check on the animals from outside Thursday at Scovill Zoo. Visit herald-review.com to see more photos and videos.


CLAY JACKSON HERALD & REVIEW

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A goat walks around the petting zoo at Scovill Zoo on Thursday. Visit herald-review.com to see more photos and videos.


CLAY JACKSON, HERALD & REVIEW

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Jack, a Bactrian camel, checks the weather at Scovill Zoo on Thursday. Visit herald-review.com to see more photos and videos.


CLAY JACKSON HERALD & REVIEW

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Intern Sean Linehan (left) and zoo keeper Mindy Weaver check on the animals outdoors at Scovill Zoo on Thursday. Visit herald-review.com to see more photos and videos.


CLAY JACKSON HERALD & REVIEW

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The red pandas are waiting to be fed at Scovill Zoo on Thursday. Visit herald-review.com to see more photos and videos.


CLAY JACKSON HERALD & REVIEW

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Intern Sean Linehan (left) and Assistant Director Dave Webster check on the animals from outside Thursday at Scovill Zoo. Visit herald-review.com to see more photos and videos.


CLAY JACKSON HERALD & REVIEW

Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR