Methuselah was a long-time resident and mascot of Reptile Gardens.  At 130 years old, the 600-pound giant Galapagos tortoise, passed away in July of 2011. One year later, on July 10, 2012, we unveiled a life-sized bronze replica of Methuselah in a brand new playground dedicated to Methuselah and all the kids who knew and loved him.

John Brockelsby, Public Relations Director, and CEO Joe Maierhauser had known Methuselah since they were young children when John’s father and Joe’s uncle, Earl Brockelsby, introduced the giant tortoise into his new home in South Dakota in 1954.  Over the years, Methuselah became synonymous with Reptile Gardens and every year, on his birthday, he’d feast on his favorite food: watermelon.  Methuselah had a unique personality.  He was smart and always seemed to know how to get what he wanted, sometimes by sheer force!


Fun Facts About the Bronze Statue of Methuselah

  1. The bronze statue is an exact casting of the real Methuselah.
  2. Former Reptile Gardens staff member, Matt Seney, and Chris Cammack of Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studio posed Methuselah and made detailed molds of every part of his body.   
  3. It took Matt and Chris over 300 hours, over the course of several months, to complete the mold-making process. Due to the complexity of the process and their desire to make a perfect impression, they worked in subzero temperatures, and at one point, had to use a forklift, a concrete culvert, and numerous inner tubes to complete the molds.
  4. Once the superbly detailed molds were completed they were delivered to Grant Standard and his crew at Black Hills Bronze foundry in Hill City, SD. They put their top people on making the finely detailed wax impressions of the original cast to then be cast in bronze using the lost wax technique.
  5. It took approximately 25 separate molds to create the bronze statue of Methuselah.  The pieces were then carefully welded together to create the statue you see today.
  6. The finished bronze statue weighs 360 pounds.
  7. Our friends at SECO Construction spent the winter of 2011/2012 creating the fun new Methuselah's Playground, home to the completed bronze. In the final weeks before the unveiling, SECO foreman James Graff worked closely with Black Hills Bronze to prepare the base on which the bronze would sit. He then moved the statue into place on the night of July 9.


Methuselah’s playground

Image of Methuselah's playground at Reptile Gardens.

Methuselah’s playground at Reptile Gardens, features a bronze cast of Methuselah as a tribute to his memory. July 10th, 2012, the day of the unveiling, was declared, "Go Slow For A Day," by Rapid City Mayor, Sam Kooiker, in honor of the beloved mascot.

We invite and welcome children to play on the bronze statue of the giant tortoise and have pictures taken, just as many kids and families have done since Methuselah first arrived at Reptile Gardens in 1954. From our records, we estimate that Methuselah touched the lives of over 12 million visitors in his 56 years at Reptile Gardens, and he may very well be one of the most photographed animals in the US!



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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch Funtier Town

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing, go on a 3D safari, or test your aim at the shooting gallery! Our very own old west ghost town has numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

At the end of every snake show, you will get the opportunity to pet a python and chat with our knowledgeable show presenters. Don't forget your camera!