Located in the Howell Memorial Science Building, Bob Jones University’s serpentarium remains one of the University’s unfamiliar features. This collection of reptiles is used for student research and is now open to the public.
This year’s Bible Conference exposed the serpentarium to the student body through fundraisers that offered tours and a chance to name some new baby crocodiles. After a full week of tours, photos and votes toward naming the baby crocodiles, BJU President Steve Pettit and his wife Terry Pettit allowed the crocs to be named after them.
The serpentarium provides great exposure to a wide variety of reptile species for zoo and wildlife biology majors, as well as for visitors who are interested in learning more about reptiles.
Riley Knight, a senior biology major and serpentarium employee, loves handling and learning more about these reptiles. “Honestly, I love the opportunity to get to know God’s creation, because this is a very misunderstood group,” Knight said. “I get to come to understand them better.”
The serpentarium is still offering walk-in tours on Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Students can sign up in the Hub or by emailing Susie Stoever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anwyn Ashley, a junior orchestral instrument performance major, voted on the names for the baby crocodiles: “I think it’s a really unique thing,” Ashley said. “I didn’t realize that aspect of the science department—that you could go and see live animals that they’re taking care of. So I would definitely recommend it.”
Dr. Chris Carmichael, serpentarium director and natural science professor, allows staff members to have access to the animals and has had much experience handling reptiles both in his career and growing up. Ben Barnett, a senior biology major, said meeting Dr. Carmichael, talking to serpentarium staff and going on a walk-in tour help guests see what the zoo and wildlife biology major is like, providing hands-on interaction with many different species of reptiles.
The serpentarium continues to change as new reptiles are brought in and out of the exhibit, but Barnett mentioned student staff members have the opportunity to cultivate habitats for these animals, making tours more enjoyable and zoo-like. Working as a serpentarium employee, he enjoys taking advantage of this freedom and works on designing homes for the reptiles.
“I’ve been designing planted enclosures and whole habitats for animals, and it looks really beautiful,” Barnett said. “More people are getting interested in it.” Both Knight and Barnett are working on the renovation of these habitats specifically, and they both agree this hands-on experience sets them up for success in their careers.
“[The serpentarium] gives me a really good way to see into God’s design, because you see animals that all adapted to survive perfectly in an environment from the kinds [of environments] He created,” Knight said. Students still have the opportunity to reserve a spot for a tour and interact with these amazing reptiles. However, the chance to see the baby crocs is limited since they will soon outgrow their 300-gallon tank, returning to their home in Edisto Island.