OK. This one is going to take a bit of explanation.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is located in the mountains outside of Colorado Springs. In the Western US, there has been a tendency for people to treat all snakes as if they were venomous and to treat all reptiles as if they were snakes. So there is a lot of unnecessary killing.

So the zoo decided to take a very different approach in their reptile house. The entire thing is set up like an artist’s loft, with the reptiles in terrariums chosen to complement their colours and textures. The idea is that by getting people to view them outside of the normal environment, people will see them as something that is interesting and beautiful, not scary.

The cost of this approach, of course, is that they are objectifying the animals, potentially making them something less than a living creature (depending on one’s perspective). There is also an argument that not being kept in a natural environment will harm them somehow. However, many of the reptile keepers I’ve spoken with suggest that our desire to see reptiles in “natural exhibits” is us forcing a mammal-centric perspective upon species to which it does not apply.

After thinking on the issue for a while, I don’t think I would feel comfortable running a reptile house in the same way, but I can appreciate the aesthetics of the approach and the animals do not seem to have been harmed.

And, in the end, the pictures are rather striking.