In an effort to bring more attention to Capron Park Zoo, the City Council on Tuesday voted 10-0 to spend $8,000 to bring a rare white alligator from a St. Augustine, Fla. farm to the Attleboro attraction for four months. The reptile is expected to arrive in mid-May and be ready for public view by Memorial Day.
Councilor Jay DiLisio said there is already buzz about the white alligator, which he said should pay for itself with the extra visitors it will attract. The possibility of the reptile coming to the zoo has been reported in media throughout the East Coast and Councilor Mark Cooper said it is the talk of local school children, including his six-year-old.
The white alligator, DiLisio said, will help the local zoo as it competes with nearby larger facilities to remain relevant.
"When the zoo has the opportunity to bring in such a great attraction such as this white alligator … I think it's something that we need to support 100 percent," DiLisio said.
The councilor said director Jean Benchimol had assured him that Capron Zoo is "fiscally sound at this stage." Recently, the city had agreed to pay upfront for an extra zookeeper. This was needed for Capron Zoo to retain its accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which is up for renewal in the fall.
AZA accreditation "means official recognition and approval of a zoo or aquarium by a group of experts" based on "high standards," according to the nonprofit organization's website. Capron Zoo is one of 224 accredited zoos or aquariums in the nation as of March, the website states. DiLisio said accreditation is needed for the zoo to have the chance to bring in attractions like the white alligator.
"I think it's really rare for a city of our size to have an accredited zoo," Councilor Jeremy Denlea said. "That's something I'm really prideful of. And if [bringing in the white alligator] would help bring a little more limelight to the zoo and a little more attraction, I think that's great."
Benchimol told Attleboro-Seekonk Patch earlier this month that the farm would also send a regular-colored hatchling. The zoo's education department staff will walk around with the newborn alligator, showing it to visitors who will be able to compare the green baby with the white adult.