HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Remember the retro Reptile House at the Honolulu Zoo?
It taught generations of Hawaii kids and visitors about reptiles and amphibians — and its cool corridor offered a respite from the hot sun.
But the Reptile House, which was dedicated in 1964, closed down three years ago to make way for a new facility.
And that new center, called the Ectotherm Complex, is now finally open.
The mayor, city officials and scores of school kids attended the grand opening Monday, and got to see the zoo's reptiles up close.
The $3 million, state-of-the-art facility for ectotherms (cold-blooded animals) houses turtles, snakes, lizards, snails, frogs, salamanders and butterflies.
"It's very improved from the last time I came here," said 11-year-old Eleu Lukey, a fifth grader at Waikiki Elementary. "It's wasn't as big as it is now. I think it's giving more space to the animals."
Many of the center's inhabitants are endangered, and the zoo see its role of keeping their species alive as central to the facility's future.
Thanks to Hawaii's climate, the Honolulu Zoo is the only institution of its kind to successfully breed endangered reptiles in captivity. The new complex also features an endemic invertebrate breeding lab, where indigenous snails and butterflies will be propagated and then released into the wild.
"i do think it's really important that we do things to help preserve the species that we do have and educate our keiki, and the adults too, about those species," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Linda Santos, the zoo's new director, says the new complex is one of many improvements being made before the zoo reapplies for national accreditation in 2019. It lost its status last year because of inconsistent city funding.
"It'll showcase that we're moving forward and doing modernized exhibits for better guest experiences as well as animal welfare," Santos said.
Mobile users: Click here to see more photos of the new facility.