Species group: Alligators and Caimans (Crocodilians)
Scientific name: Alligator mississippiensis
One of the world’s largest and most formidable reptiles, the American Alligator makes a fine zoo exhibit but is far too large and dangerous for most private collections. It is a species best left to zoos or observed, with appropriate cautions, in the wild.
The American Alligator is found in the Southeastern USA, from southern Virginia along the Atlantic coast to Florida and west along the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.
Once endangered, today this aquatic behemoth may be encountered in many permanent water bodies, including canals, rivers, ponds, streams and lakes. Its preferred habitats, however, are large swamps, marshes, and bayous.
Appearance / health:
American Alligators reach 3 – 4.5 meters (10-15 feet) in length, with larger males having been recorded in the past. The head is noticeably broad and the olive, brown, or black back is protected by bony plates known as osteoderms.
Zoo specimens commonly live into their 40’s and 50’s, with a longevity record of 73+ years.
Behavior / temperament:
While these intelligent creatures can become quite responsive, they cannot be “tamed”, and have been responsible for human fatalities
Zoos exhibit American Alligators in filtered habitats measuring at least 9 x 9 meters (30x30 ft) or enclosed outdoor ponds.
The natural diet is highly varied, and includes invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles (including other alligators), birds, mammals, and carrion. Predation on humans has been documented.
Females deposit 20-90 eggs in large nests constructed of vegetation, after which they remain nearby to repel predators. The eggs hatch in 65-80 days, and the young are guarded by their mother for a period of 5-12+ months.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
great conversation piece, amazing crocodilian, hardy animals, experienced keeper
adult size, dangerous animals, financial commitment, significant expense, special habitat
Great Animals to Keep - in Zoos!
Based upon a lifetime of working with alligators in zoos and the wild, my best advice to those who would like to keep the USA’s most formidable reptile as a pet is “do not”! While there’s no denying that they are highly intelligent, socially complex and able to respond (in some ways) to their keepers, alligators are fully capable of killing an adult, and indeed do so on occasion in the wild. They can in no way ever be considered “tame” or worthy of one’s trust, as might a domesticated mammal, and YouTube videos and such to the contrary should be ignored.
Of course, the practical considerations involved in keeping a giant, aquatic reptile in anything but an enclosed outdoor swamp will (or should!) dissuade most potential owners. Unfortunately, hatchlings that fit into 50 gallon aquariums are sold (illegally in many areas) very cheaply. Please do not be tempted – even on poor diets, they grow at astonishing rates, and no matter how special you might consider your pet to be, no zoo or nature center will accept one, and release is unethical and illegal, even within their range, due to the possibility of disease transmission, etc.
Alligators are quite easy to observe and study in many zoos and, from a safe distance, throughout much of the southeastern USA – please limit your gator interactions to those activities!.
From findiviglio Nov 4 2015 11:53AM