Today, Australian Reptile Park keepers undertook a highly dangerous alligator nest raid in the alligator lagoon. Home to 35 adult alligators, the process is considered extremely dangerous and certainly keeps the hearts of staff racing. Betty the female alligator laid her eggs last night with staff unveiling the clutch of 15 this morning.
Head of Reptiles Daniel Rumsey said “After relaxing over Christmas, there’s nothing that gets your heart racing again quite like Alligator nest raiding! We do this every year and all of the keepers love getting muddy and helping save the baby alligators from what could be a potentially dangerous situation with Australia’s heat, and larger cannibalistic adult alligators”.
The nest raiding process involves keepers wrangling the alligator, restraining her and removing the eggs from the nest. The mothers are in a high maternal state and keen to guard their eggs, making them very aggressive, hence the caution taken by the staff!
The nest raid comes with the alligator’s best interests at heart. Native to swamps and wetlands in the south-east of the United States of America, the alligator’s eggs won’t hatch in Australia’s hot climate with upcoming temperatures this summer predicted to reach in excess of 40 ° on many occasions. The eggs removed during the nest raid will be artificially incubated and hatch in about 70 days with their sex determined by the temperature at which they are incubated.
Commenting on the process Daniel Rumsey added, “One slightly off step out of place can cost you, so we are very careful to follow a well-thought-out plan and ensure the protective mother is well restrained and doing okay herself. Once we let her go, we also monitor her for the rest of the day to ensure she has not been distressed. We have a few more female alligators looking to be gravid (holding eggs) so it could be a busy summer for us!”
In the wild, American alligators guard their eggs until they hatch, then gently dig the hatchlings out, take them in her mouth to the water and protect them while they grow and learn survival skills. The biggest threat to a baby alligator is another alligator, as the species are cannibalistic – which is another reason why staff remove them from the lagoon filled with 35 adult alligators.