Posted by: justnaturallyme | August 28, 2008

Hello world!

Yesterday was a typical August day in Florida day, steamy, temperature in the 90s and humidity through the roof. I spent most of it tromping around Saint Augustine Alligator Farm, a well know zoo here in Saint Augustine that specializes in reptiles, gathering information and helping my partner in sweat, Martin, take photographs.  I was also doing what I do on typical days, researching my newest book series, Wild About Florida. I already have the South Florida version out and am hard at work on the Central and North versions.

Some of you may not think visiting a zoo of any kind of hard work. Think again. Don’t get me wrong. It is fun also but when I do something like this I am concentrating on learning what I  need to make my book interesting and unique, looking for interesting items that are not already common knowledge or online at the touch of a computer key. I want to find the human interest (sometimes animal interest) in it as well as dry facts.

Boy did I hit the jackpot yesterday. The Alligator Farm is well known for its white alligators.  Looking at the two beautiful specimens that are placed in a prominent spot near the entrance, I began speculation on the “why” and “where” of white alligators.

One of the Allligator Farm's white alligators

One of the Allligator Farm's white alligators.

I had seen some of these extraordinary reptiles before. When I visited New Orleans, my birthplace, researching an earlier book, Hosts With Ghosts, I saw two of the ghostly looking reptiles: one at the Aquarium of the Americas and one at the Audubon Zoo. Now growing up in Louisiana and living in Florida, I’ve seen my share of alligators in the wild. they are a little scary looking.  When I first saw a white alligator, my initial impression was “He looks just like white chocolate!”

In researching the south version, we visited the Palm Beach Zoo.  They had Mardi on display.  He is on loan from the Alligator Farm. I recently learned that Silver Springs now has two of these beauties.  I’ll have to get there and see those soon. Seeing these two in Saint Augustine  triggered the old reporter in me: why, where, when. What is the story behind these rare animals?

Well, I found parts of the story at the Alligator farm and then dug up the rest. Here is it.

First off, there are two distinct types of “white alligator:” albino alligators that lack melanin pigment so their eyes appear pink due to the blood vessels showing through and leucistic alligators which have white pigment and blue eyes. The ones in New Orleans are leucistic and the Alligator Farm ‘gators are albinos.According to National Geographic News, there are an estimated 5 million American alligators living worldwide but only 30 are known to be true albinos.

The albinos were first discovered by Gerald Savoie, a commercial alligator farmer and trapper in Cut Off , Louisiana.  In 1992, he was surprised to discover that some of the wild eggs he had gathered produced albino alligators.

The leucistic alligators were first discovered in 1987 also in Louisiana by workers of a now defunct company that owned much of the wetlands around Lousiiana.

Neither of these magical creatures would survive long in the wild. their lack of camouflage coloring would make them easy prey for predators. Also the albinos skin is sensitive to sunlight and exposure to the sun would kill them. So those alligators at the zoos are lucky to be alive. And according to the legend, that luck rubs off.  The story goes if you look a white alligator in the eye, you will have good luck.

Just be sure you have something between you and the ‘gator. The white ones have the same number of teeth as the regular ones.

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Responses

  1. Nice looking blog page, Katy! Enjoyable post also. Love the pictures. I’d never seen a white aligator before.

  2. Hi Katy,

    This is a great blog! I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing. This is fabulous for those who have never visited Florida and even those who have! I have lived in Florida for over 32 years and I have never seen a while alligator!

  3. I knew someone somewhere would come up with a (white) chocolate that bit back.

    Nice blog!

  4. Nice blog – and love the pics. Do you know where I would go in LA to see a blue-eyed gator?


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