Best Friends Forever?
By Holly Houser, Ocean Reef Press Manager
This past week, the Nature Center at Ocean Reef became one of the few places to house baby alligators and crocodiles together in captivity, according to Jeanette Rivera, Ocean Reef Naturalist.
Jeanette has been nurturing two baby alligators, named Dorian and Larry Bird, in the Nature Center’s pond enclosure for the past year and a half, bringing in the new crocodile just last Monday. “Although we live near alligators at The Reef, the American crocodile is our primary resident,” explained Rivera. “It will be an important educational opportunity for the kids who come through the Nature Center to see the differences between a baby crocodile and alligator first hand.” Adding, “I’m also excited to examine how well the two species coexist in captivity. I’m hoping they’ll become best friends!”
While at a glance, alligators and crocodiles may seem very similar, they are two different species entirely. In fact, the Everglades is the only place in the world where alligators and American crocodiles cohabitate. This is because the Everglades have areas of brackish water where freshwater and saltwater meet. Although crocodiles are primarily saltwater creatures and alligators primarily freshwater, both can survive in brackish water.
The three little reptiles residing in the Nature Center are almost two years old, and once they grow to about two feet in length, Jeanette will return them to the Everglades Outpost and bring in a new set of hatchlings. This way, the Nature Center will not have any that grow to the point that they become dangerous or no longer fit in their enclosure. “When it comes time to return the crocodile, named Bay, to the Outpost, he will likely be used for educational purposes or even shows,” said Rivera. “To prepare him for this, I will feed him using clicker training, similar to dog training. This way, he will learn to eat on command and will feel comfortable being handled by the time he returns to the Outpost.”
Mic O’Keeffe, Vice President of Sports & Amenities, said the opportunity to raise these babies together is as exciting for Jeanette and the Nature Center as it is for the Members who have the chance to witness it. “We live in such a unique environment here at Ocean Reef and our team is continually trying to bring the nature to our Member families,” he said. “Providing Members with the opportunity to see an alligator and a crocodile up close and personal, and to be able to educate them on the differences between the two species that share our home, is really so special.”
The Nature Center is open Thursday to Sunday from 2-5 p.m.
Masks are required.