Alligator show makes reptiles less intimidating (Video)
Dec. 30, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
Jessica Holmes looked closely at the baby alligator as she touched its skin. She wasn't worried, but just minutes before touching it, her story was different.
"I'm kind of terrified when it comes to alligators," she said. "I've never seen any do harm to others except in the movies."
Fear when it comes to alligators is something that Texas Zoo Animal Curator Michael Magaw hears a lot about. He said it's mostly because of movies. But it's that stereotype that needs changing.
"We have a tendency to demonize this creature that should be destroyed," he said. "The more we know (about alligators), the less we fear."
Magaw has been at the Texas Zoo for a year, but he's been working with animals for 34 years.
At the zoo, gator feeding events take place so visitors can learn about alligators and what they eat, which is mostly raw chicken, fish and sometimes rats. The problem is that they don't eat all the time. Magaw explained the last time the three male alligators - Popeye, Bluto and Sweetpea - ate was in mid-November. The alligators are no longer than 5 to 7 feet long. And in other states such as North Carolina, where the weather is different than in South Texas, alligators don't eat sometimes for as long as six months. During the winter, alligators can be harmless because of they're unwillingness to get out of the water, he said, where they can remain warmer.
Magaw said the gator events are a way for people to get firs-hand experience with an animal and see how they're trained.
Colton Fischer didn't think training alligators was possible.
"When he said we're going to train them, I said you're crazy," said Fischer, who is an animal trainer at the zoo. "It was intimidating. For me, it was unheard of, but it actually made sense."
By training the alligators, Fischer and Magaw explained, the alligators understand that humans are not intending to harm them. They can sometimes be friendly.
But as Magaw said, alligators can become unfriendly.
"They're dangerous. Don't get me wrong," he said, but "there's nothing like meeting animals."
As for Holmes, she left the zoo with a different mindset about alligators.
"It's nice to see they are not as aggressive," she said.