A walk through the zoo is like a trip around the world. There are rhinoceros iguanas from the island of Hispaniola hanging out on tree limbs. Caiman lizards of South America--which are slaughtered by the thousands for their skin--take a dip in a small pond. A pair of venomous Mexican beaded lizards can be viewed behind glass. And a "puppy-dog tame" Asian water monitor lizard will crawl across a zookeeper's back. More than half of the varied creatures at the zoo are rescues or donated. Keepers occasionally take a snake or lizard out of an enclosure to introduce it to guests. Jan Zuidveld invites visitors to pet "Rose," whom he calls "a sweet twenty-five-year-old lizard." The Northern Australian blue-tongued skink, calm in Zuidveld's steady hands, sticks out her tongue.
Intern Joseph Hill, an EMU biology grad, says he's had an interest in crocodile monitors--the largest species of monitor lizard in the world--since he was a kid and first visited the Toledo Zoo. He has one at home, and now here he has the rare opportunity to attempt to breed them in captivity. Only six zoos nationwide have succeeded. The Reptile Zoo has two female lizards and one male, each housed in a separate enclosure, because when not breeding they will kill each other given the chance. Hill built a tunnel connecting the enclosures as well as nesting boxes for the females, so that when the time comes, the lizards will have ample opportunity to breed. Meantime, visitors can view them behind glass in their connected rooms. "I'm hoping in the next year we'll have babies hatching!" he says.