Holden Reptile Conservation Center

The Detroit Zoo’s reptiles are primarily housed inside Holden Reptile Conservation Center, located near the middle of the Zoo.  Visitors can learn about the 85 different species (and approximately 180 individual animals) of which are considered threatened or endangered in the wild.

The latest addition to the Holden Reptile Conservation Center is the new home for a female reticulated python.  The 18-foot, 85-pound snake was introduced into her spacious digs at the Holden Reptile Conservation Center following eight months of construction.

python-exh1The centerpiece of the 20-by-8-by-8 foot space is a large stone head deity – created by Detroit Zoo reptile keeper David Blanchard – fashioned after temple idols found at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  The enclosure also features a variety of plants and trees to offer the python the sanctuary she would find in her native habitat as well as a basking pool that provides underwater viewing for visitors.

“Pythons are exceptional swimmers, so the pool was vital to replicating a habitat synonymous with the wild,” said Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Reptiles Jeff Jundt.  “David’s artistry helped to create an amazing space that meets the python’s needs and is also visually engaging for visitors.”

The reticulated python is flanked by Madagascar tree boas, Dumeril’s boas and black-headed pythons, whose habitats were included in the design by Ehresman Associates, Inc. in Troy, Mich.  A stone-and-glass façade and thatched roof span the 38-foot length of the exhibit.  Funding for the project was made possible in part through the generosity of the James and Lynelle Holden Fund.

The reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus) is native to the rainforests and woodlands of Southeast Asia and the Indonesian and Philippine Islands.  It is the longest snake species in the world, averaging around 22 feet and reaching up to 30 feet.  A black criss-cross pattern runs the length of the python’s gray, brown and tan body, giving it the reticulated name.  The snake’s coloring contributes to its ability for camouflage to elude predators and conceal itself from potential prey.

The Detroit Zoo’s reticulated python, estimated to be 17 years old, was rescued from a private owner in July 2010.  Each year, the Detroit Zoological Society receives more than 100 requests from pet owners looking for a new home for their reptiles, and only on rare occasions is able to accept one.  

“That once-cute baby iguana, turtle or snake is now full grown and is no longer fun to clean up after, has outgrown its enclosure or has simply lost its appeal,” said Jundt.  “While we would like to be able to assist, we simply do not have the resources to care for all of these animals.”  Owners looking for a home for their pets should contact the nearest humane society or animal rescue group.