The Buffalo Zoo has reached the 3rd phase of its four year Master Plan. After tackling the completion of Sea Lion Cove, Otter Creek, M&T Bank Rainforest Falls, Delta Sonic Heritage Farm, a new entry plaza, and the $14 million Garman Family Arctic Edge, The Zoo is ready to move forward with its vision for its Amphibian & Reptile Center (A.R.C.). That means that the historic Reptile House, once considered “the finest in the country”, will be getting a new roof, heating and ventilation systems, over thirty naturalistic exhibits, and interactive education elements. Just as important, the critical conservation programs that are underway at the moment will get a healthy boost.
The Reptile House was first built in 1942. It’s infrastructure and animal exhibits date back to that time. Over the years, they have served their purpose, but now they are seriously out of date and in need of improvements and replacements. A number of the beautiful historic features will be refurbished, not eliminated. In order to ensure that the more than forty-five species of reptiles are properly cared for and shown in the best light, City of Buffalo Mayor, Byron W. Brown, Buffalo Zoo officials including President & CEO, Dr. Donna Fernandes, and Suzanne Perkins-Gordon have announced a public fundraising goal that will serve as a way to fill a financial gap. Thankfully, $2 million of the $2.5 million goal has already been raised, meaning that The Zoo is not far from reaching its final goal. The initial funds were raised through the State of New York, City of Buffalo and private donors.
Ms. Perkins-Gordon is the daughter of zoologist and conservationist R. Marlin Perkins who hosted the TV program Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom from 1963-1985. It turns out that Mr. Perkins was the Director of the Buffalo Zoo back in the days when the Reptile House was first built, and Ms. Perkins-Gordon also lived in Buffalo at that time. That’s a pretty neat factoid right there. What an honor it was to have Ms. Perkins-Gordon back in Buffalo supporting this incredible new project at the Buffalo Zoo.
“We’re excited that some of the world’s most exotic species, located at the Buffalo Zoo, will soon get a new, state-of-the-art home,” said Mayor Byron Brown, noting that the city is providing $531,755 in bond funding for the historic reptile house roof as part of the renovation. “The new $2.5 million Amphibian & Reptile Center will continue to upgrade the visitor experience at our zoo, an important part of Buffalo’s mix of culture and recreational attractions. This exhibit will continue to add richly to our city’s quality of life, attracting thousands of people to the Parkside and North Buffalo neighborhoods.”
“We understand that popular culture has helped to enforce an aversion to many of the species represented, but the reality is that their role in ecosystems around the world is paramount. Our hope is that the community will recognize the big picture and continue their support by contributing to this next phase of fulfilling what is the overall the master plan of their Zoo,” added Dr. Fernandes.
The Zoo’s conservation efforts to protect species such as hellbenders, Puerto Rican crested toads, and Panamanian golden frogs go well beyond Buffalo. These critters are vital to the habitats where they are found. By eliminating their presence, entire ecosystems are susceptible to change. As humans continue to wreak havoc on the environment, the role of zoos is becoming more and more important.
Those interested in contributing to the Amphibian and Reptile Center capital campaign, Help Build The A.R.C. can contribute online at buffalozoo.org following the Support Us links, or, contact the Zoo’s development office directly at (716) 995-6158.
Lead image: F Meyer and A Marlin-Perkins at opening of reptile house 1942