Anyone looking for something a little snappier during the Christmas holidays should take the chance to meet Florida.
The American alligator is Ti Point Reptile Park’s latest addition to its menagerie and is on loan from Butterfly Creek, a small zoo near Auckland Airport.
Florida is 14 years old, weighs around 60 kilos and is about 2.3 metres long, but is still not yet fully grown.
Park manager Mike Chillingworth says while Florida will not get much longer, he will eventually acquire a larger head and tail and put on more weight.
“He was definitely our most interesting ‘click and collect’ during lockdown,” Mike says.
Transporting Florida from Butterfly Creek required steely nerve and skilful handling.
Zoo keepers don’t like to anesthetise alligators since it can take a long time for the drugs to work through their systems. Mike says they also decided not to tape up Florida’s jaws to minimise his stress levels.
Transfer on to a truck was achieved by using a rope with a loop and slip knot attached to the end of a long pole.
When Florida opened his mouth, the rope was looped around his top jaw and pulled tight. An assistant then grabbed Florida’s tail to ensure he did not rush at the keeper holding the rope.
The rope was used to pull Florida into a long plastic tube, which was then sealed and placed in a specially built crate for transport.
Mike says Florida was a little shy when he first arrived, but has since been settling in well and has a huge appetite.
“We heard him calling to the females at the park for the first time late the other evening – a rumbling noise, which alligators use to communicate with each other,” he says.
The Ti Point Reptile Park is open every day from 10am throughout the holidays except for Christmas Day. Last admission is at 4pm.
A My Vaccine Pass is required for over 12s and face coverings must be worn on arrival and when in indoor areas.