​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When​ the doors open to the Deserts Dome, visitors leave Indianapolis and arrive in an arid oasis surrounded by beautiful and mysterious creatures — some of the friendlier ones are even free-roaming! Sunlight fills the space and guests can often see lizards high overhead sunning themselves on rocks close to the windows. The temperature-controlled climate remains 85 degrees in the summer and 82 degrees in the winter, providing a warm environment where our species can thrive.​​

African Plated Lizard

1-3-1 Plated lizard- Richard Reams.jpgAverage size: Between 14-24 inches long
Median life expectancy: 15-20 years
Key physical characteristics: Large body, short legs, yellow and brown in color, rough scales or pl​ates, large eyes, and tail that is usually double the length of the body size
Native regions/habitat range: Sub-Saharan grasslands in Eastern and Southeastern Africa
Eating habits: Consists of invertebrates, fruit and vegetables
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun facts: Round-nosed plated lizards are prey to snakes and small mammals. Some tactics used to escape predators may be a run-and-halt tactic to confuse the predator. Another is digging burrows and inhaling air. This airtight crevice is nearly impossible for predators to enter. [close]​

Agama Lizard​

1-3-1 Red-headed Agama (Agama agama) by Joel Sartore.jpgAverage size: Between 10-24 inches
Median life expectancy10-30 years
Key physical characteristics: Long, slender scale-covered body; range of colors
Native regions/habitat range: Sub-Saharan Africa in savanna, forest, or grassland habitats
Eating habits: Insects and vegetation
Conservation status: Least concern or unlisted
Fun facts: There are approximately 350 species of agama lizards​.
Who's at the Zoo: Clown agama [close]​​

Boa Constrictors​

1-3-1 Mexican Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata trivirgata) by Joel Sartore.jpgAverage size: Depending on species, boas can be 16 inches up 30 feet; can weigh up to 280 pounds
Median life expectancy: 20-30 ​years
Key physical characteristics: Long, cylinder-shaped narrow bodies; variations in color; small heads
Native regions/habitat range: Live in rain forests, swamps, woodlands, grasslands, savannas, and semi-desert scrublands in Western North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Madagascar, Western Asia, and Pacific Islands
Eating habits: Boas may eat rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, and small to medium-sized mammals.
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun facts: When some boa species want to mate, several males coil around a female in a ball and wrestle with one another for up to two weeks before one wins or the fem​​ale makes a choice.
Who's at the Zoo: Rainbow boa, Kenyan sand boa and Mexican rosy boa


Average size: 3-8 inches long; 1-11 ounces
Median life expectancy: 40 years
Key physical characteristics: Flat bodies with coarse skin, juveniles hatch with zebra-striped tails and bright orange bands on their backs that fade into dull gray and brown tones as they mature.
Native regions/habitat range: Rocky desert areas in the western United States and into northwestern Mexico
Eating habits: These herbivores eat a mixture of perennial and annual plants
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun facts: Chuckwallas seek out rocky areas that provide basking spots as well as shelter and protection. When threatened, these reptiles will hide in rock crevices and gulp air to puff up, wedging themselves in and preventing predators from pulling them out. Females lay 5-10 eggs in a clutch and protect the eggs until they hatch. After hatching, juveniles immediately go out on their own.​ [close]

Colorado River Toad​

Average ​size: 3-7 inches in length and 1-3 pounds in weight
Median Life Expectancy: 10-20 years​
Key physical characteristics: Smooth skin with randomly placed, raised bump-like glands; color variations include shades of olive green, brown or gray with pale underside
Native regions/habitat range: Desert and semi- arid regions of the southwest United States and northern Mexico 
Eating habits: These carnivorous amphibians will eat invertebrates, lizards, small mammals and other smaller amphibians
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun facts: North America's largest native species of toad, these desert dwellers often beat the heat by living and hiding near streams, springs, canals and ditches. If the toad feels threatened, it will secrete a toxin that can be deadly to small animals and pets. However, they're typically not harmful to humans.  ​​​[close]


1-3-1 Everglades rat snake-Don Reynolds.jpgAverage size: Depending on species, size ranges from 14 inches to 9 feet; up to 9 pounds
Median life expectancy: 15-30 years
Key physical characteristics: They have long, cylinder-shaped narrow bodies, variations in color, no appendages and small heads. Some species of colubrids have elongated, grooved teeth in the back of the upper jaw.
Native regions/habitat range: Live in woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands in Southeastern Canada and South America
Eating habits: Rodents, eggs, other snakes and birds
Conservation status: Unlisted to threatened, depending on species
Fun facts: Some kingsnake species, such as the scarlet kingsnake and California mountain kingsnake, have almost the same coloration and patterning as venomous coral snakes, making it easy to confuse them with that dangerous snake species. There is a rhyme to help you tell a deadly coral snake from its nonvenomous look-alike: "Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, venom lack."
Who's at the Zoo: Eastern indigo snake, Sinaloan milksnake, gray-banded kingsnake, corn snake, Everglades rat snake and Florida pine snake


1-3-1 Grand Cayman Blue Iguana-Paul Riley.jpgAverage size: Depending on species, 4 inches to 6 feet long
Median life expectancy: 10-20 years
Key physical characteristics: Long, narrow, scale-covered bodies; large tails and feet
Native regions/habitat range: Bushes and rock holes on Grand Cayman Island, rocky habitats in Haiti, Mexico and the Dominican Republic
Eating habits: Insects, fruits and plants
Conservation status: Vulnerable to endangered, depending on species
Fun facts: The rhinoceros iguana are more terrestrial than some of the other iguana species. This gives them the advantage for living in a rocky and dry climate. These little guys will rarely be seen hanging out in trees or forested areas for that matter.
Who's at the Zoo: Chuckwallas, Grand Cayman blue iguana and rhinoceros iguanas


1-3-1 Meerkat-Joseph Schrettenbrunner.jpgAverage size: 10-12 inches (head to body); weigh about 2 pounds
Median life expectancy: 9.2 years
Key physical characteristics: Small with short, light brown fur; pointed nose; upright posture
Native regions/habitat range: African plains
Eating habits: Insects, lizards, birds and fruit
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun facts: Meerkats work together for protection and hunting. They communicate with purring sounds. Females give birth to two to four young each year.


1-3-1 Green Tree Python-Wayne Evans.jpgAverage size: Depending on species, grow between 23 inches and 33 feet; weigh up to 250 pounds
Median life expectancy: 11 years
Key physical characteristics: Long, cylinder-shaped narrow bodies, variations in color, small heads. Pythons differ from boas because they have an extra bone in their head.
Native regions/habitat range: Rain ​forests, grasslands and savannas, woodlands, swamps, desert hills and shrub lands in Northern Australia, Southeast Asia and Africa.
Eating habits: Depending on its size, a python will eat birds, lizards, rodents and other small mammals.
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun facts: Black-headed pythons seem to prefer eating other reptiles, including venomous snakes. 
Who's at the Zoo: Spotted python, black-headed python, Calabar burrowing python, green tree python, Malaysian blood python, ball python and Burmese python

Red Spittin​​g Cobra

1-3-1 Red spitting cobra.jpgAverage s​ize: Between 2 to 4 feet
Median life expectancy: 20.2 years
Key physical characteristics: Medium-sized snake, bright red-salmon in color with a black throat band
Native regions/habitat range: Dry savannas and semi-desert areas of East Africa
Eating habits: Amphibians, such as toads and frogs, also rodents and birds
Conservation status: Unlisted
Fun facts: Adults of this species are nocturnal, while young red spitting cobras are active during the day.

Turtles & Tortoises

1-3-1 Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) by Joel Sartore.jpgAverage size: Varies widely depending on species; some grow to be only 5 oun​ces and 3 inches long, the largest can grow to be 1,800 pounds and 8 feet long
Median life expectancy​: About 70 years
Key physical characteristics: Both turtles and tortoises have a round head and a hard, oval shell. Turtles have webbed feet for swimming while tortoises have round and stumpy feet for walking on land.
Native regions/habitat range: Found on all continents except Antarctica; aquatic species are found in oceans, swamps, freshwater lakes, ponds, and streams; terrestrial species are found in deserts, forests, and grasslands.
Eating habits: Turtles and tortoises consume various fruits and vegetables.
Conservation status: Vulnerable to critically endangered
Fun facts: Many people think turtles and tortoises are the same or they do not know the difference. Turtles can swim and tortoises are strictly land animals.
Who's at the Zoo: Australian snake neck turtle, radiated tortoises, desert tortoises and African pancake tortoises.


1-3-1 Eyelash viper CU-Jackie Curts.jpgAverage size: From 17 inches to 8 feet long, depending on species
Median life expectancy​: 13 years
Key physical characteristics: Thick bodies ​with flat, triangular heads; their fangs fold back against the roof of the mouth when not in use.
Native regions/habitat range: Humid forests, moist savannas, wet prairies in Guinea, United States and Australia.
Eating habits: They feed on frogs, lizards, and small mammals and birds.
Conservation status: Least concern to vulnerable
Fun facts: The bite of the viper snake is so powerful you would need instant medication because you would lose a lot of blood.
Who's at the Zoo: Western cottonmouth, eyelash vipers, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Taylor's cantil and timber rattlesnake