This Memorial Day weekend, visitors to Stone Zoo will see some scaly new faces with big toothy grins when the new American alligator exhibit opens.
The American alligator exhibit, which will be within the Alfred Huang North American Crane Exhibit, will feature three alligators, which range in size from 5 to 7 feet in length. This new space will offer visitors a chance to view these incredible creatures and observe them as they move throughout their pool and bask in the sun.
The story of the American alligator is also a great example of people's ability to help species recover. In 1967, American alligators were declared endangered. As a result of a prohibition on hunting combined with collaborative state and federal efforts, this unique species was declared fully recovered in 1987, marking one of the first endangered species recovery stories.
The American alligator exhibit is a permanent seasonal exhibit at Stone Zoo. Visitors will be able to see the alligators on exhibit into the early fall.
In addition to the large adult alligators, visitors will also be able to see "gators" up close with the three smaller animals, measuring 1 foot long each, that will be featured program animals utilized by the zoo's Education department.
Adult American alligators are extremely strong and formidable predators. They use their long, muscular tails to propel through the water and their incredible bite power to catch and hold onto prey. These animals help to control populations of prey species and also create "alligator holes," which are invaluable to other species in dry seasons and winter. Red-bellied turtles, for example, incubate their eggs in old alligator nests, which consist of piled vegetation.
Male alligators can measure nearly 15 feet long, while females can measure 10 feet long. They are the most vocal of all crocodilians, and communication begins before babies even hatch out of their eggs. When they are ready to hatch, the young make high-pitched whining noises. Alligators commonly bellow and roar at one another, and the loud bellow can be heard up to 165 yards away. During courting, alligators emit cough-like purrs.
In the wild, American alligators can be found in freshwater swamps, marshes, rivers and lakes in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers this species threatened as populations are not entirely stable throughout its range.
Photo Credit: Zoo New England/Dayle Sullivan Taylor