The LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles) is the newest exhibit to open at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The facility encompasses several visually stunning areas that include habitats for various unique and endangered species. The LAIR is one of the few reptile and amphibian-focused facilities to open within the past decade in a North American zoo.
The unique collection in the LAIR comprises some of the rarest species among North American zoos – some of which are not showcased anywhere else in the world and others that have never been displayed at the Los Angeles Zoo until now. Zoo Director John Lewis comments that “the LAIR is home to fantastic and stunning creatures that were present on Earth well before humans arrived, but now unfortunately depend on us for their survival.” Over 60 species of amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles are represented in this assortment of living jewels. Each habitat is beautifully themed with hand-painted murals of damp and misty forests, rainforest canopies, red rock formations, mountain ranges and vistas, and dry arid deserts to exemplify the natural environments of the many diverse species. Additionally, this new structure will provide a vital base for the Zoo’s reptile and amphibian-focused conservation initiatives. The LAIR, a $14.1 million project, was funded by monies from the City's Proposition CC bond measure for Zoo improvements ($9.5 million), along with $4.0 million in MICLA funds and $.6 million from the General Fund.
Entrance/Oak Woodland Pond
Upon entering the LAIR’s exhibit area, guests are welcomed by the native residents of Oak Woodland Pond. This organically inhabited exhibit is designed specifically to provide a habitat that the local wildlife of Griffith Park and Southern California can choose to reside in. Green vines will soon grow along the exterior fence of the LAIR, while personalized engraved donor “rep-tile” scales slither around the entrance doors. At the top of the adjacent hill, riders on the Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel get a perfect view of the LAIR’s unique and living Green Roof.
The LAIR’s principal building exhibits species found around the world. Visitors entering seem to be swept away into the depths of Damp Forest to find neon green Fiji Island banded iguanas. Several species of tiny brightly colored poison dart frogs are discovered in lush vivariums. Further into the exhibit, the world’s largest amphibian, the Chinese giant salamander, inhabits a mountainside stream with underwater viewing. 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; the green mamba, a fast slender arboreal snake from Africa; and the bushmaster, the largest venomous snake of the Americas.
The reptiles and amphibians of the Zoo’s conservation programs are showcased in the LAIR in a way that has never before been done at the Los Angeles Zoo. The Care and Conservation Room features a rare look at the work the Zoo is doing to help conserve rare and endangered species such as the Gray's monitor. Visitors see Behind the Glass to witness activities that would normally take place behind-the-scenes and out-of-site. Zoo Keepers utilize this room for daily activities such as food prep, nursery care for young reptiles, reptile egg storage, and most importantly, to share with visitors messages of importance for species conservation. Visitors also hear the sounds of the species represented in the LAIR, as well as elements from their natural habitats, through an immersive audio experience presented in AstoundSound®.
The Desert LAIR
The LAIR’s secondary building represents the semi-arid desert climate of Mexico, Arizona, and our 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 ears of the Desert LAIR’s visitors mimicking the weather sporadically encountered in these dry climates. The weather extremes of these environments make for tough and distinct species such as the desert hairy scorpion, Gila monster, Southwest speckled rattlesnake, Sonoran toad, and California natives like the California kingsnake and the San Diego gopher snake.
Visitors traveling through the Crocodile Swamp encounter the LAIR’s false gharial exhibit. Guests look down into this endangered species’ pool to get a glimpse of the intimidating species of crocodile found in Southeast Asia. False gharials can reach a length of 15 feet long.
Arroyo Lagarto literally translates to “lizard stream” in Spanish. This outdoor desert environment features a potpourri of reptile species including California’s official state reptile - the desert tortoise. The neighboring radiated tortoise habitat adds to the showcase of reptile diversity. Just beyond both outdoor habitats lies a garden of tough, distinctive, and typical desert plants ranging from Mexico to Southern California.
- The LAIR encompasses over 60 species of amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles from around the world.
- There are a total of 49 exhibits; each exhibit closely resembles the natural ecosystem of its inhabitants.
- The LAIR is comprised of 6 diversely themed areas: the Damp Forest, Betty’s Bite and Squeeze room named after Betty White, co-chair of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, Care and Conservation room, Behind the Glass, Arroyo Lagarto, and the Desert LAIR.
- The LAIR’s principal building is 6,289 square feet. The Desert LAIR building is 2,085 square feet.
- The LAIR is one of a few facilities built in North America within the past decade that specifically focuses on reptiles and amphibians.
- All murals are hand-painted by different artists and represent the natural habitats of the LAIR’s species including mountainous regions of China, Central America and Mexico; lush forests of Africa, South America, and the Philippines; river banks of New Zealand, Australia and Louisiana; deserts of Southern California, Arizona and Mexico.
- The outside benches that provide seating for guests are recycled from the pine trees removed during the building’s construction.
- Many exhibits within LAIR have UV basking lights and heated floors to provide the proper care for the animals.
- Visitors experience the natural sounds of the species represented in the LAIR and their habitats both inside and outside the exhibit through audio presented in AstoundSound®.