Discovery Outpost


King Cobra

The king cobra is the largest venomous snake in the world. Special muscles and ribs in its neck spread out to form a "hood" when the cobra feels threatened. This makes the snake look bigger than it really is and may help scare predators away. King cobras make a deep, loud hiss, a warning signal that can be heard from a distance. The message is: "I am big, bad, and will bite you if you come any closer!" Most cobras are known to protect their eggs after laying them, but the female king cobra does even more. She uses her body and head to move leaves around to build a nest.

Chinese Alligator

In the Zoo’s Reptile Walk, you’ll find the Chinese alligator, a critically endangered species. From nose to tail, belly to back, hard scales protect this petite alligator. Even the eyelids have bony plates under the skin! Chinese alligators use their snout and strong, clawed front feet to dig burrows in the banks of streams. When the cold months come, they hunker down in their burrows—or in caves—and stay there throughout the winter.

Wig L. Worm Composting Garden

For our younger visitors, you'll find Wig L. Worm's Composting Garden in the Children's Zoo. This not only gives our young guests and their parents a hands-on demonstration of how to compost and recycle, it also teaches how these activities conserve the environment by preventing soil erosion, reducing waste in landfills, eliminating reliance on toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and recycling green waste the way Mother Nature intended. And if anyone is skeptical about whether these techniques are realistic for large-scale gardening, they have only to look around.

Bromeliad Garden

When you look at all the fantastically shaped bromeliads next to the Hummingbird Aviary at the San Diego Zoo, it's hard to believe that they are close relatives of the pineapple. While pineapples are the most well-known bromeliad, their plants look a bit mundane compared to the Zoo's more fanciful specimens.

Variegated Garden

It may be human nature, but we love the wild, the strange, and the bizarre. Whether it's a pink car or a purple house, people are drawn to things outside the norm. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that gardeners and nongardeners alike seek out and enjoy variegated plants, which defy the usual course of things in a world of solid green.

Turtle & Terrapin

What’s not to like about turtles? In the Zoo’s Discovery Outpost, a large pond habitat features narrow-headed softshell turtles, painted terrapins, stripe-necked turtles, Fly River turtles, and a Malaysian giant turtle named The General, who was rescued from a shipment destined for an Asian food market. The turtles in this large pond can be seen swimming around the exhibit, with great views available through the underwater viewing window.

Reptile Mesa

Reptile Mesa has all kinds of exotic-looking plants (including, appropriately, dragon trees!) from all kinds of exotic locations. The task of maintaining a varied plant collection while creating natural habitats for the animal residents can be challenging. For example, in the green iguana exhibit on Reptile Mesa, the evergreen shrub, Xylosma sp., was selected because it is not a particularly flavorful plant from an iguana's point of view—so, the lizards would not consume it as fast as we planted it, which can often occur.


Rattlesnakes! The word alone fills most people with fear and anxiety, because they have no experience in dealing with snakes. Yet we should learn to appreciate the rattlesnake as one of the most efficient and specialized predators on Earth. That famous rattle at the end of a rattlesnake’s tail is made of interlocking rings, or segments of keratin—the same material our fingernails are made of. When vibrated, the rattle creates a hissing sound that warns off potential predators. It is an extremely effective and highly evolved predator-avoidance system.


A member of the boa family, South America’s green anaconda is the heaviest snake in the world. Like all boas, it kills its prey by coiling its muscular body around the creature and squeezing until the animal can no longer breathe. Anacondas like to be in or near water, and they are excellent swimmers. Their eyes and nostrils are on top of their head, so they can keep their body hidden underwater as they wait for prey. Surprisingly, humans are the anaconda’s most dangerous predator.


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