Video: Albino Alligator Makes Attleboro Debut
The four-year-old is one of only 200 white alligators in the world.
The much-anticipated white alligator made her first public appearance Wednesday morning at Capron Park Zoo, with the media getting a sneak peak prior to the opening of the exhibit on Friday.
The rare reptile, one of 200 in the entire world, recently arrived from a farm in St. Augustine, Fla. She will be at the zoo for four months.
"With everything going on in the world, things are so crazy, it's nice to have an attraction like this," said Lou Provenzano, an owner of local McDonald's franchises, who, along with Friends of Capron Park Zoo, is helping the zoo cover the cost of the exhibit. "It's a nice educational piece for the community."
The female alligator is about four years old and five feet long. She is living in an indoor exhibit made by zoo staff members Rob Verzone and Lino Ribeiro that resembles her natural swampy habitat in the Southeastern United States.
An indoor exhibit is required because an albino alligator has no pigment and would receive severe sunburns and skin infections if left outside, said Melanie Fernandes, the zoo's curator of education.
In the wild, a white alligator would have little chance of long-term survival, Fernades said. The reptile would be an easy target for predators as a hatchling. If it somehow made it past that stage, the alligator would have a difficult time hunting for food, since the species' method is to hide and catch prey by surprise.
Animals that are unusually white are either albino or leucistic. The difference is easily noticeable because of the eye color—red for albinos and blue for leucistics. This alligator is albino, born with the recessive gene from two albino parents. Ramses, the zoo's popular white lion, is leucistic.
Fernades said the white alligator will eat about twice a week, consuming biscuit-like "gator chow" as well as fish, chicken and an occasional meat mix.
"They don't eat a great deal," she said. "They're not hugely active animals."
Zoo Director Jean Benchimol said she is excited to have the reptile at the zoo because people from this area do not often get to see alligators.
"We want them to see these beautiful reptiles, how they live and what they do," Benchimol said.
A green hatchling alligator is also part of the exhibit. Zoo staff will walk around with the reptile, giving visitors an opportunity to compare the regular-colored baby with its older, white cousin.
Benchimol said her phone has been ringing frequently since word first came out that the exhibit would be coming to the zoo. She expects this will lead to a big turnout this summer of Attleboro residents and people from throughout New England.
"Everybody really loves our zoo, and they always look forward to us bringing in new features," Benchimol said. "It's such a community zoo and they all come out and support us. So I'm hoping that they include us in their summer plans, not once, but many times."
Go here for more information on zoo hours and admission prices.