Philip and the National Reptile Zoo

With St Patrick’s Day nearing, I though I would share a reptile-related post, just to be fair to the expelled snakes and to let you know that some of them have repatriated back to Ireland.

This is my beautiful green buddy Philip. He hatched out in the end of 2007, and this picture was taken in 2010. He is a Water Dragon.

Shortly after he was adopted, his parents went for holidays and left him with me. He was as big as a pencil. Every morning he would stand on his hind legs in his terrarium and look at me. He knew the ritual. I would pick him up, hold him to my face, and go to bed again for another ten minutes, talking to him and kissing his little head. Then he would go back to his terrarium until evening.

He was a different shade of green at that time.

I didn’t see him for another few years. Things happen, and in 2013 Philip’s parents separated. He was 6 year old, about 3 feet long, and lived in a 5 x 9 feet terrarium by then. There was no one ready to commit to having him. They had to make a heartbreaking decision to give Philip away. The only reasonable place for him to stay would be a zoo, but first he had to endure a 6 month long quarantine in the Reptile Village in Gowran, Co Kilkenny. Herpetologist and Director of the Reptile Village James Hennessy picked him up. He said that they already had a male Water Dragon, but the Dublin Zoo would be happy to take Philip.

When I came to visit him after a week, he looked scared. On the top of his terrarium there was another glass cage with a dying female of the same species. This was the place where people dumped their reptiles when they could not cope with caring for their ‘pets’ anymore.  A lesson for those who decide to buy a reptile just ‘ because it is cute’. I left in tears.

To make a long story short, Philip is alive in the Dublin Zoo. At least he was when I talked with Mr. Hennessy over the phone in 2015.

I revisited the Reptile Village in December. Now it is called The National Reptile Zoo, it has expanded since 2013, and it is amazing.

These Green Iguanas, and some other reptiles live in a separate Tropical Walk-Through Dome outside the main building. The dome is 6 m in diameter and over 3 m high.

National Reptile Zoo

Isn’t it sweet that you can touch a lizard. I don’t know if they exactly enjoy this, but the visitors definitely love the experience 🙂

National Reptiie Zoo

Waking up after a nap 🙂

National Reptile Zoo

First things first 🙂

National Reptile Zoo

Sun basking is another favorite activity of Iguanas. It is hot and humid inside the dome, and the live plants make it look like jungle. The lizards and tortoises roam free and feel home.

National Reptile Zoo

National Reptile Zoo

Rhinoceros Iguana in the main building loves his veggies. Philip preferred crickets.

National Reptile Zoo

This is what lizards do most of the time.

Reptile Zoo

The most impressive part of the tour  are Animal Encounter Sessions that are carried out by trained reptile wranglers.

National Reptile Zoo

Christina begins this session by introducing a Burmese Python, and asks if we know where exactly his tail is.

Reptile Village

I wanted to take a picture of the tail, but it  came out blurred. In this picture, half of the tail is hidden behind Christina’s hand. The tail is only  5-6 inches long. The throat takes up one third of the body, and the rest is stomach.

Reptile Village

Everyone loves the Python.

Reptile Village

Reptile Village

Blue Steel, a huge albino Burmese Python I wanted to meet, was nowhere to be seen. Pearl, another albino, the biggest snake in Ireland, was not out of quarantine yet at that time – now she is on exhibit, so I have to go to the Zoo again. Female pythons are just a little bit longer than males, but much sturdier. I hope to take pictures of Pearl some time in summer.

This is Rosie, a gorgeous Chilean Rose tarantula. I don’t know if it would be a good business idea to open a Spider Zoo, but here Rosie is a star 🙂  I think I have also seen a scorpion somewhere in the Zoo, but it might be just a food item that simply escaped.

National Reptile Zoo

National Reptile Zoo

The National Reptile Zoo celebrates its 11th Anniversary in March. I think Rosie is the same age as the Zoo.

National Reptile Zoo

There are more than 150 animals of 50 species in the Reptile Zoo, and I will share more pictures next week. Stay tuned, and please don’t wear any St. Patrick’s day accessories when you are reading this blog 😉

www.inesemjphotography.comHave a wonderful weekend!


  1. An amazing post. I’m not too found of reptiles in general, met too many snakes at too close range in Africa, but I don’t “mind” them. Glad that Philip finally adapted to his new home.
    Be good.

  2. The python in particular is spectacular! You take fantastic photos. I do not know though if I would want to touch any of those creatures, I admit it!!

  3. Again beautiful pictures and a great story accompanying it! Philip´s so handsome and extremely cute when he was younger 😉 I can understand why you miss him so much. I wasn’t aware that these reptiles can bond with their owner, but maybe I should have guessed. I kind of feel stupid for not knowing… Lizards, dragons, iguanas they´re all fine with me, especially since they´re so very beautiful and wonderful for doing pottery statues and the like. Snakes… still okay, since they, don´t have legs which I appreciate since I´m not very fond of anything with more than 6, better 4 legs, but the tarantula! No, definitely no. 🙂 I would very probably have left the center screaming my head off 😉 Have a lovely Sunday and a beautiful week, Inese! 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxx

    1. Oh Sarah, you get used to a creature when you take care of him. I only knew Philip for one week, but I still love him years after 🙂 I don’t know about spiders, never tried to love them, really 😉 xxxx

      1. I once had a dog for 1 day – he came out of nowhere and joined us on our fieldtrip on Bodensee. I still remember everything about him 😄 It was so lovely! xxxxx

    1. Thank you Carol. Sometimes people have best intentions and do their duty and everything, but suddenly their life falls apart. Such things happen, and Philip’s ‘parents’ did the best thing in their conditions. We have to consider a lot before we take responsibility for somebody’s life, and think about plan B if something happens to us.

  4. Oh my gosh, Phillip was so adorable as a baby. I love reptiles, as I do most animals, but tarantulas I can’t do. Was it you in the pics holding that one? I don’t think I could, they really make me shiver. Here in Bangkok we have huge monitor lizards, like the one in your photo, living in parks and swimming in the canals. I love it when I see them, although I don’t get too close, those tails look lethal! I will look forward to your next visit 🙂 xx

    1. No, I wasn’t brave enough to hold Rosie, but a young boy did it 🙂 We were told that if we drop her she would die from the impact 😦 I didn’t want to feel guilty so I didn’t even touch her.
      The monitors are so huge. They have a good few monitors in the Zoo. I heard that Comodo ones are aggressive.

  5. A fabulous collection of reptiles at the National Reptile Zoo, Inese – not forgetting Rosie the tarantula.- and I’d love to visit there next time I’m in Dublin. I’ve only seen a ‘Reptile House’ as part of a general zoo before. I enjoyed hearing the story about Philip and he’s so cute in the photo of him when he was tiny…a handsome little water dragon. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Millie. This one is not in Dublin. It is in Gowran, Co Kilkenny. I don’t think they have such an extensive collection of reptiles in the Dublin Zoo. When you come to Ireland and know where you are going to stay, I will write you a list of all the lovely places around 🙂

      1. Oh dear…! That’ll teach me for reading posts when I’m half asleep. (Sometimes, last thing at night is the only time I can find for catching up.) Well, Co Kilkenny is relatively close to where we intend to stay, so that’s even better. Last time we came over to Ireland, we spent our last day in Dublin, but Kilkenny will be reachable during the week.
        Thanks for your offer of a list of places to visit – it would be very appreciated! 🙂

      1. We’ll see – I will be posting pictures! (assuming I ever stop goofing off and get back to blogging!)

        1. I am looking forward to that. So wonderful that you made your winter a bit shorter 😉
          This week I am off line – just answering comments.

  6. Those are wonderful photos, Inese 🙂 I just absolutely love reptiles. My daughter owns a bearded dragon. He’s beautiful and really intelligent, and loves cuddles and chin-rubs. He also loves baths, especially if everybody crowds into the bathroom to watch him. When the family has been out and he hears them coming home, he gets really excited, like a dog would, rushing up and down, wanting immediate attention. I don’t think that some people realise that reptiles are capable of bonding with their owners and have feelings. It’s so sad when they’re not looked after properly. The people that Reptile Zoo look as if they understand this. Those reptiles in their care look happy and healthy.

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! Glad to hear your daughter owns a bearded dragon. May be they don’t have a long memory like the mammals do, but they remember enough to have a bond with their owner.

Comments are closed.