Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A trip to the alligator farm

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Maximo the saltwater crocodile.




If you see him headed your way in the wild, you are probably in for a bone crushing bite, exerting a pressure of up to 3000 psi (compared to 350 psi of shark bite)…ouch! But don’t worry, he will pose and grin widely for you to take photos if you visit him in the Alligator Farm . He was born in 1971 so that makes him about 35 years old (don’t know when his birthday is). He is 15 feet 3 inches long so get the wide angle lens ready if you want to take a photo. Here is a video of Maximo swimming around that I shot:





You probably figured out from his accent that he is Australian. For most of his life he lived in Australia and has been in two serious relationships. He met his current girlfriend ‘Sydney’ in…no not Sydney but Cairns. Here is a photo of Maximo and Sydney.



She weighs only 200 pounds compared to the scale breaking 1250 pound Maximo. The couple traveled all the way to America in 2003. It was a very stressful time for them with the air travel, culture shock, time difference and climate change. Poor Sydney was pregnant during this journey and could not handle the stress of all the traveling. It took a toll on Sydney and she decided against having the babies. She laid the eggs in the water (instead of land) which is as good as drowning the babies if the eggs are not removed from the water within 24 hours. However, in August 2005, Sydney was prepared to be a mom. She laid 35 eggs out of which 18 were ‘borrowed’ from her by the zoo keepers for safe keeping. From the 18 eggs, 8 were chosen to be male and 10 were chosen to be female. It is a simple trick, choosing an incubation temperature of 31.6 C for eggs results in males and a lower temperature (don’t know exact temp.) results in females. So Maximo is a proud dad of at least 18 kids who were born in August. I am not entirely sure about what happened to the eggs that were left with the couple.

But enough about Maximo…there is so much to see in the Alligator Farm. There is one exhibit called the alligator lagoon. It is very unnerving to watch some 50 alligators lounging no more than a couple of feet away from you. The only thing between you and the gators is a 3 feet tall fence. Irrational fears of gators climbing over each other to make an escape gripped me. I was amazed to discover how intelligent these creatures are. I guess being humans we grossly underestimate most of the creatures we share the planet with. How smart could they be if they can be easily poached to end up as fashion accessories? I know, Steve Irwin probably turned in his grave. I would watch Crocodile Hunter once in awhile and think Steve was crazy. I mean I appreciated his love for animals and his efforts he put to protect them but I could never call these creatures beautiful and amazing even after watching the honest admiration for them in Steve’s eyes. They were always these giant lizards that I’d rather not think about…let alone admire.

I stood there watching these gators and I realized how unnerving they really are in person. Then it was time for a show called “Realm of the Alligator” and this guy casually walked into the pit. There were gators all over the place and he was calmly giving us information about these creatures standing amongst them like they were rabbits. Here is a video I took:



You can hear the nervous spectators in the background. It was unbelievable that he was giving commands like they were dogs and they were following his commands. He called for Polly the croc, to come across the pit to him and only Polly did exactly that! It was amazing. I always thought that reptilian brains were too small to be trained like that.

All and all I left the alligator farm amazed, respecting these giant reptiles more than I ever did. If you ever get a chance to visit an alligator farm, you should definitely make some time for it. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida is particularly amazing (although that’s the only one I have visited). According to their pamphlet, it is the only zoo with all the 23 crocodilian species including the recently (1990s) discovered albino crocodiles.

I have uploaded many photos on my flickr account flickr account. I will upload more soon.

See you later alligator, in a while crocodile.

13 comments:

mandeepsg said...

sounds like an adventure...

Thalia said...

That was an excellent introduction of alligators and a superb write-up about the alligator farm. Thank you for sharing it, Crys. Though I could also never admire their "beauty", so to speak, their living habits and their sheer strength never cease to amaze me. Your comments on Maximo and Sydney are highly amusing! :-)

By the way, the pictures and videos ,make up for our inabilities to visit the farm.

raghu said...

awsome..love the crocs cos of animal planet n steve!

Drunken Master said...

Wait a minute! So *these* guys live in water... I always get confused with Alligators and Crocs (who live down the street from me).

Crystal blur said...

mandeep,
It's definitely memorable :)

thalia,
Thanks thalia! I will upload some more photos on flickr soon. I am sure that a nature lover like you would have fun visiting too.

raghu,
My parents recently visited the zoo in Australia, where Steve Irwin worked very closely. They enjoyed the visit too...although missed Steve's enthusiasm...Crikey!

drunken master,
I know! The distinction between crocs and gators is so confusing. Gators are supposed to have round stubby snouts while crocs are slender...but the Indian croc (magar) looks so much like a gator. Sheesh! Then there is the 4th tooth (exposed or not) differentiation...I don't even go there. Cute cartoon link :)

Fleiger said...

Sydney must be a petite gator...

Like you said, I am not a huge fan of reptiles of any species known to me (snakes being particular non-favourites), but this was a nice post...

Crystal blur said...

fleiger! You are back...eggjams khatam?

Drunken Master said...

I usually distinguish between animals by the way they taste, not sure I can do it in this case simply because of the unavailability of Croc Grilles on my side of the lake.

Crystal blur said...

Drunken master,
That's horrible!!! (hahaha)

Thalia said...

Oh by the way, I did see the pictures on flickr too and there are some really nice pictures there! And I like your abstract pictures too.

cheti said...

Zoos are fascinating - after all these years, they still do !

Fleiger said...

Khatam... now results awaited. Then over :D

another brick in the wall said...

wow! u've become so brave of a sudden! i recall ur post about the scary "wall lizard" is ur loo.. and man! now u r bravely watchin alligators from 3 feet away! bravo blur! bravo! hehe.. imagine if wall lizards were 2 become 15 feet long :p