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Gators grab spotlight at Texas Zoo

By ErinPradia
June 18, 2011 at 1:18 a.m.

Patrick Warren, 8, holds up an alligator while standing in the alligator pool at Gator Day in the Texas Zoo on Saturday morning. Warren and his family came from Houston for Gator Day. "He wants to be an alligator vet when he grows up." his mother said.

Lane Wright sat on the little red benches for 25 minutes, waiting for the first alligator show to begin at the Texas Zoo.

"I got to hold a snake already!" Lane, 10, of Hallettsville, exclaimed. "It was tame."

Lane also waded with baby alligators and held and petted them.

"Their mouths were taped so they weren't dangerous," Lane explained.

Lane says the texture of the alligators was rough, except for the "kill spot" on their neck.

"He watches 'Swamp People' too much," his mother, Jodie Wright, 29, of Hallettsville, said with a chuckle.

"A crocodile's snout is thinner and longer, but alligators have short, wide snouts," Lane said removing the plastic from the alligator that his mother purchased at the zoo to demonstrate.

After a brief introduction by zoo director Andrea Blomberg, the alligator show was set to begin.

"Are you ready to learn about alligators?" gator guru Gary Saurage yelled to kick off the interactive educational reptile presentation.

Saurage chose volunteers to come on stage and hold 2- to 3-year-old alligators and a full-grown caiman, which was about the same length as the baby gators.

The presentation taught the children the difference between crocodiles and gators. Saurage told them how mother alligators make nests for their egg.

The gender of the baby alligators is determined by the temperature of the ground the eggs are nested in. If the soil is 85-87 degrees, the baby will be female, but if the soil is higher than 87 degrees, the baby alligator will be male, Saurage said.

"Does that mean the guys are hotter than the girls?" Saurage asked. "Girls, you are supposed to say, 'Yeah, but the girls are cooler!'"

Saurage also taught children about venomous and nonvenomous snakes.

Saurage and his wife, Jana, run the Alligator Rescue in Beaumont with their children, Damon Bailey, 19, Reali Ross, 15, Callie Saurage, 13, Kyle Saurage and Erika Parr, 9.

The Alligator Rescue is also a theme park where educational reptile shows are presented daily, and the Saurage family travels around the country to help with fundraisers. The Alligator Rescue has 300 alligators, six species of crocodiles and 250 snakes.

Texas Zoo reptile day visitors got their faces painted, waded with baby alligators in swimming pools and threw softballs at a dunking booth to dunk Kyle Saurage in a tub with a 6-foot alligator for donations toward the Texas Zoo.

Lane enjoyed alligator day at the zoo, "I want to get an alligator painted on my face next," he said.

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