200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 115: “Academy Alligators ”

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baby alligator held by live animal keeper
Bar Carter, the reptile keeper in the Academy’s Live Animal Center, holds one of the baby alligators.

Academy Alligators

When members of Philadelphia’s Animal Control team found two baby alligators in a box on the side of the road in 2009, they knew exactly who to call for a temporary home. The two American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) were likely purchased from a reptile expo or pet store. Like many alligators of their kind, they may have been abandoned when their owner realized how messy they are or how fast they grow (up to one foot per year!). Within days of receiving the two gators from the side of the road, the Academy’s Live Animal Center took in another American alligator of roughly the same age (less than two years old) which was confiscated from a private home in South Philadelphia.

At the Academy’s Live Animal Center, the alligators spent several months in quarantine until they were determined to be healthy and safe for public programs like the naturalist presentations we hold every afternoon. The Academy uses alligators and other reptiles to help educate the public about adaptations, endangered species, and other natural science topics. Though we and our visitors loved the alligators, Live Animal Center staff knew they would eventually outgrow our facilities and require a more permanent home. In fact, the largest alligator, Slate, weighed 2.8 pounds when it arrived at the Academy and grew to 36 pounds during its time here!

Last August the alligators left the Academy for their new home at Croc Encounters, a Florida reptile park and wildlife center. For her Live Animal Center intern project, Juliette Gorson took on the challenge of arranging safe and inexpensive transport for the three alligators. She struck gold when she contacted reptile keeper Kevin Wilson at Cape May County Zoo, who helped facilitate safe passage for our gators to Florida with a Croc Encounters employee who was already picking up several other displaced area alligators. The alligators’ new home provides a comfortable, natural habitat where they will receive proper diet and adequate care.

Even though the alligators have moved on to swampier pastures, we have birds, reptiles, and many other amazing creatures for you to see in our Live Animal Center and during naturalist presentations. Visit us today!

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