Reptile zoo leaves Lebanon Valley Mall, seeks rural location after city declines

Reptile zoo leaves Lebanon Valley Mall, seeks rural location after city declines

A zoo featuring reptiles, birds and other modest- to medium-sized critters at Lebanon Valley Shopping mall has outgrown its room there, but strategies to move the menagerie into downtown Lebanon have operate afoul of city ordinances.

So now, the homeowners of the Harmless Reptile Working experience are wanting for a locale which is a little much more rural.

“We’re likely to invest in some land and build a new facility,” Morgan Innocent, who owns the zoo and retail place together with her husband Sean, explained to LebTown. “We’re hunting at a location in Jonestown, and at some other sites in which our chickens and some of our other animals can be exterior.

“I want to make sure my animals have sufficient house.”

When the zoo opened at the shopping mall along Route 422 in February 2022, they experienced just in excess of 100 animals in their collection. Now, Morgan reported, they have extra than 300 – and they only received also major for that location.

Study Extra: Spiders, lizards, snakes & a gator: New zoo opening at Lebanon Valley Shopping mall

She dismissed rumors that the zoo was evicted from the shopping mall, stating the Reptile Working experience experienced a superior romantic relationship with mall administration.

“We felt we were outgrowing the space,” she defined. “Our zoo took off a great deal faster than I considered. It was truly cramped in there.”

She noted that the attraction drew a good deal of individuals to see and interact with their animals, which is 1 of the motives they want a bigger facility.

Metropolis internet site doesn’t pan out

They believed they’d observed the place they desired in the metropolis. While the assets close to Snitz Creek Brewery offered triple the area, Morgan stated, they didn’t count on zoning troubles that barred them from keeping their menagerie within just city boundaries.

“We assumed it would be a extra welcoming area if we had classes, or faculty visits,” she claimed. “And it had sufficient area for us to present upgraded enclosures for our animals.”

But, after speaking with town officers, the Innocents recognized they had been looking in the mistaken municipality.

“Originally, we imagined it was likely to be a actually very good strategy,” Morgan mentioned. “But soon after conversing to council, it is just not there but. They seriously consider their time to make conclusions, but I only experienced a window of 30 days” to near on the property in dilemma.

Sean Innocent, co-owner of the Innocent Reptile Knowledge at the Lebanon Valley Shopping mall, reveals off his pal Karma, an Asian water watch, in February 2022.

“I was not anticipating it to be so difficult to shift into the city,” she explained. “We had to place a deposit down on the house, but then the town mentioned it was heading to be extra than four months ahead of they arrived to a determination. To put a zoo in Lebanon, it is heading to get baby steps. They are extremely careful … we have venomous snakes, and they want to be confident they’re not heading to escape.”

It’s crucial, she pressured, that the zoo is a good suit in its new site.

“We require a fantastic connection with the township. We require to make strong relationships with our neighbors,” she defined. “Even if we have 6 acres, we’re nonetheless linked to a person.”

300+ critters in foster care

Currently, the zoo’s 300+ inhabitants are in two foster residences outdoors of the metropolis.

The zoo figures amid its far more perilous citizens a inhabitants of lethal snakes, which include a West African bush viper, two western diamondback rattlesnakes and a banded copperhead, and an alligator named Scrappy. They are amid the exhibits that can only be viewed from a safe length, and with a zoo employee as a chaperone.

Scrappy, an American alligator, at the Innocent Reptile Knowledge, a new zoo and storefront at the Lebanon Valley Mall, in February 2022.

“We also have a large amount a lot more birds now,” Morgan said. “We’ve also been striving to emphasis far more on mammals, also. … We’re seeking to get permits for far more exotic mammals. People can’t maintain a hedgehog, so we’re hoping to make a harmless position for them.”

The zoo has been the recipient of a number of animals – which includes two goats and some chickens – that ended up dropped off by homeowners who, for a variety of motives, couldn’t retain them, she stated.

Morgan reported she and Sean are hoping to buy a assets for their zoo in the following 30 to 60 times. They are also setting up to get a new household that is closer to their zoo.

The new site, as soon as open, will also contain their retail shop for exotic animal supplies, she famous. They also would like separate facilities for the additional dangerous people – the snakes and gators – and the harmless critters. “We also want some thing in which the animals can be secure,” she additional.

Altogether, Morgan said, they’d like about 5,000 sq. toes

Fairly than making a new zoo facility, she explained, they are arranging to invest in pre-constructed modular units that can be rearranged or expanded as required.

“They just have to transfer them to our assets, then hook up water and utilities,” Morgan said. “So it shouldn’t get as well very long following we obtain a residence … in advance of we reopen.”

Traveling reveals are even now on the go

The Innocents did not generally strategy to operate a zoo. His track record is in psychology, hers is in nursing, they explained to LebTown in 2022. And collectively they owned a puppy … until finally Morgan came home a person working day with a few tarantulas.

Sean was not thrilled at initially, but he grew to really like them. And as their mutual enthusiasm for reptiles, arthropods and other critters grew, they ended up creating a vocation of it. To begin with, they ran Innocent Feeders, a retail retail outlet offering crickets, roaches and other delicious snacks for regional reptile entrepreneurs, in Annville. That aspect occupation grew into the zoo they opened early last 12 months at the mall.

Other species in their assortment selection from a Nile keep an eye on to a purple-footed tortoise, axolotls and ball pythons, bearded dragons and leopard geckos, an Amazon parrot and even a cat. They host local community occasions, from birthday parties to an educational zoo summer season camp and a Youth Leadership Method.

A pair of axolotls swim at the Innocent Reptile Working experience in February 2022.

Longterm ambitions for the zoo consist of obtaining 501c3 nonprofit accreditation to aid donations as properly as accreditation by the Affiliation of Zoos and Aquariums.

Even though they are at this time among places, the Innocents are still scheduling situations for the spring and summer.

“We’re however traveling” with their displays, Morgan stated, “even while our real zoo almost certainly won’t be open up right absent.”

Despite a few bumps, in the highway, she’s self-confident they’re on the proper monitor.

“We’re excited,” she stated. “We’re optimistic.”

Do you want to see more from LebTown?

No cost information isn’t low-cost. If you price the journalism LebTown supplies to the group, then assist us make it sustainable by getting a champion of area news.

You can unlock added protection for the community by supporting our do the job with a a single-time contribution, or becoming a member of as a month to month or annual member. You can terminate whenever.

Thoughts about this story? Ideas for a potential LebTown short article? Achieve our newsroom working with the contact form under and we’ll do our greatest to get back again to you.