Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

New! Goulds Monitor
Written By: Zookeeper Lizzy

I think we can all agree that it is exciting to see new critters at the zoo! They add new personalities and adventure. One of our newest members of the family is our baby Goulds Monitor in our Australian Connections building. The first thing to think about is the animal’s new home.

To give our animals the best care possible we try to make their exhibits as natural as possible. This includes substrate, rocks, plants, temperature, and terrain similar to their natural habitat. Each item in an exhibit is thought out carefully and strategically placed. For example, a visitor might notice a pile of gray rocks in a terrarium and think nothing of it where as I see a strategically placed rock formation so that none will come loose and fall on the animal. We have placed them a foot below the terrarium lid where the heat lamp sits. This gives the animal ample basking space, regulates the heat and allows the animal to be close to the UV light fixture for natural sunlight. The rocks are also at a gradual incline so the animal can easily move up and down as well as provide space underneath for two to lie together. Not quite an ordinary pile of rocks, huh?

When I first found out I would be designing the new exhibit for the Goulds Monitor I began researching their habitat. A sandy substrate and temperatures in the high 70’s seemed straight forward but one thing stumped me; they live in burrows! It wouldn’t be very fun for visitors to come see a lizard that was in an underground burrow all day so I had to be creative. I decided I would make a burrow against the glass of the exhibit so guests can see him in his home. Thinking of the idea was the easy part…now I had to make it.

I decided to make the burrow out of carved Styrofoam. I used 3 cubes of Styrofoam and connected them together so the burrow would be large enough for him to fit comfortably inside. I used a soldering iron to carve the piece of the burrow that would be taken out. I then used a spoon to dig out the inside. Next I smoothed out all the edges with a file. I wanted it to look like a hill so it would look natural as well as give him a spot to bask so I gradually carved down the sides with the soldering iron and smoothed them out with the file.

Green Styrofoam in an exhibit is not very appealing so I used spray glue and adhered sand to the outside so it looked natural. Finally, it was time to put the burrow in the exhibit. I covered the exhibit floor with the same sand I used on the burrow and added some rocks for basking as well as some natural decorative plants.

When we moved the little guy up to his new home he was a little wary at first. He has now settled in nicely and is sleeping soundly in his specially designed burrow! I hope you can come see him soon.

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Blogger Kevin Nelson said...

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August 31, 2020 at 4:30 AM  

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