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Gym for rattlesnakes opens to fight high obesity rate among captive reptiles

A gym devoted to keeping venomous snakes and other reptiles from getting fat was unveiled this week to widespread disbelief on social media.

The Melbourne Zoo in Australia is calling it a “world-first water gym for reptiles,” and celebrated the opening Tuesday with video of a diamondback rattlesnake splashing around in a filtered spa with inline heating and hydro pumps to add a sauna-like current.

IFL Science covered the opening this week, writing that the facility is surely the first in the world created “to fight snake obesity.”

“A lot of reptiles are ambush predators,” Reptile Keeper Alex Mitchell was quoted telling IFL Science. “If they don’t have to chase their prey they become sedentary and quite prone to obesity.”

The Melbourne Zoo says on its website that the gym is “revolutionary” in its ability to keep reptiles “fit and healthy,” while improving muscle tone and endurance.

Prior to opening it, the zoo staff encouraged “snakes to swim and exercise in a bucket of water,” said a zoo release.

The new gym is closed to the public, but it does allow lizards and turtles, officials said.

Media coverage of the opening has been largely bemused, with headlines like: “Snakes at Melbourne Zoo Are Doing Aqua-Aerobics So They Don’t Get Fat.”

Social media response has been more dumbfounded.

“Exactly what we need: A quicker, stronger, more agile snake, said no one ever,” wrote David Dlma Martin on Facebook.

“Why would you try to make snakes stronger and faster,” asked David Situ on Facebook.

“Out of interest, how do you know if they don’t want to swim?” posted Becca Ann on the zoo’s Facebook page.

Zoo staff actually responded to her question, explaining keepers look for behavior that indicates a rattlesnake or lizard is actually “enjoying” itself in the water.

What a happy rattlesnake looks like was not explained.

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