Buffalo Zoo leaders joined with city, county, and state officials Thursday morning to cut the ribbon for the Donna M. Fernandes Amphibian and Reptile Center.
Zoo reps called it a transformative moment for the history of the zoo as they prepared to reopen the reptile building to the public. It originally opened as one of the country’s premier reptile houses in 1942.
Now, work has been completed to give it a new roof, update the heating and ventilation systems, and redesign the habitat spaces for 40 species, including the new-to-the-zoo Komodo Dragon.
“It is beautifully designed. This certainly is a beautiful historic building and certainly will grow the zoo’s reputation as one of the great attractions in the city of Buffalo,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown after Thursday’s dedication ceremony.
Zoo leaders hope the new space will also draw attention to the threat of extinction for several species of reptiles and amphibians which are threatened by warming global temperatures.
“We’re hoping people will be inspired to care about conservation and realize there are small changes they can make in their own life that can make a big difference,” said Donna Fernandes, the former president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo.
Fernandes made a big difference for the zoo during her nearly two decades as its leader, implementing the $60 million master plan that included huge changes for the Otter Creek, Rainforest Falls, and Heritage Farm spaces.
The completion of the $3.8 million Amphibian and Reptile Center marks the completion of that master plan, with the current zoo president Norah Fletchall leading the work for the last two years.
“This building is special because of the team of zoo staff that has come together to create a space where our guests can connect with wildlife,” Fletchall said during Thursday’s event.
The zoo staff is now looking toward the future, with work already beginning on a second master plan.
The Donna M. Fernandes Amphibian and Reptile Center opens for the public on Friday, May 24.