|Remember this slogan for later!|
We know there are lots of bears in certain parts of Florida, but never have we seen a "watch out for bears" sign. Not even out west!
We went to Gatorama for the second time, and Sparky just loved it! You get to help a baby alligator hatch from the egg IN YOUR HAND. How cool is that? Very cool! Eldo (a.k.a. Eldy), very willingly agreed to be the driver today....He's not into hatching baby alligators in his hands, but that's ok, he enjoys watching Sparky do it, and today he was the designated picture taker. Gatorama has been open since 1957. It's showing its age a little bit in terms of the facility, but since we have been there three years ago, they are really updating and renovating a lot of the farm. Some nice changes have occurred. There's a new barn area with amphitheater seating for a general discussion and presentation all about the farm and how they get the eggs. The presenter and manager, Allan Register, does a wonderful job of explaining all about the eggs and how to hatch them in your hand. His wife, Patty, is very enthusiastic and helps everyone have an optimal experience. They have a terrific staff, some with a hilarious sense of humor, to help them handle large crowds.
During the presentation, Alan explains all about how they harvest the eggs. When they go searching for the nests, one guy carries the infamous "gator stick" to hold down the snout while another guy gathers the eggs. Before they take them out of the nest, they mark the tops with a Sharpie line to keep the egg orientation constant.
The baby embryos inside are attached to the top of the egg. If the egg gets rotated, the embryo will detach and the baby dies. So they carefully mark the eggs, then remove them, keeping the line on top. Then they "candle" the eggs. They use a flashlight to shine against the egg, just like we used to shine the flashlight against our fingers to see our finger bones when we were kids. They are looking for a certain band pattern that tells them the egg is still viable. The eggs take 65 days to incubate at 90 degrees and 100% humidity. UGH! says Sparky. April is the mating season, June is when they start harvesting the eggs. They had over 5,000 eggs for the Hatchling Festival, so there's plenty to go around.
It costs 23.95 for seniors' admission AND to hatch an egg. If you just want to watch and take photos of other people doing that, it's 14.95. There is LOTS to see there, and Gatorade has expanded their facilities since the last time we were there. It's a great trip for families. We saw some very young children help a baby alligator hatch. (You wear gloves). You need to make reservations as it's a popular attraction during the last couple of weeks of August into early September, when the babies hatch. They have other hands' on experiences there, too. Go into the Uncle Waders Catch a Gator pond and catch an alligator with your bare hands! (The gators' mouths are taped). Try Gator Bare Backin' by sitting on the back of a 7-8 foot gator. And if the little ones are a little too scared of all the gators, try the Big Bones Fossil Dig.
There are lots of other animals at Gatorama, too... A Galapagos (?) tortoise, we think...
They have a variety of species including a Florida panther, a couple of bobcats, macaws, peacocks (also called peafowls) and a python. You can see lots of gators in various stages of development along the boardwalk, which is entirely shaded and fenced in.......Whew! says Sparky.
Wanna see the monster crocodile that killed so many of the gators and crocodiles at the farm, Goliath? He's there. Man, that is one ugly dude!
They had to isolate him and keep him away from killing off the gator and croc population one by one as he was trying to maintain his dominance after he'd been there for awhile. They estimate his biting force at 3,000 pounds per square inch! Some of the gators at the farm are original stock from the early fifties, and are 60-70 years old! Here's what the farm has to say about the crocodiles:
Ben said among many other interesting facts about gators and crocs, which Sparky promptly forgot because she was trying to get a good shot of those gators grabbing the chicken, that there are two species of alligator, the North American, and the Chinese (!). There are 21 species of crocodiles. Most American crocs in zoos are offspring of Gatorama. Gators are no longer an endangered species. Alligators have TONGUES, crocodiles do NOT. Those boney ridges on their backs are called scutes, and they act like little solar panels regulating the body temperatures. Gator teeth are INSIDE the mouth, crocodile teeth are OUTSIDE the mouth.
There's also a little gift shop/general store on the premises...Sparky just loves these old tourist attractions that are still available to the public and doing ok...This one is exceptional as far as the coolness factor.
After hearing the interesting presentation, it was time for the hatching!
Awwwwww....isn't she cute? Sparky just decided it was a girl...and promptly named her Allie....Folks, meet Allie Gator...just a few minutes old.
It's amazing that when the baby gators are inside the egg, they are wrapped 3 1/2 times around inside the egg, so when they come out, they need to stretch! The hatching stations that we all gathered around have nesting material in tanks, so the babies come out in your hand and then sometimes, they are so slippery, PLOP! Down they go into the material, no harm done. They stretch a little bit, and sometimes, they are really active and try to get out of the tank. A side note, less than 2% of the eggs make it to adulthood in the wild. She's so cute, Sparky thought about kissing her, for one second.
After the hatching, they go into a water tank, and the egg shell and membrane get dragged around with the little baby gator for awhile until it detaches within a day or two. Guess it gives them nutrition briefly still they start eating on their own. What do they eat? Fish, snails, insects and worms to start....
It was a great day at Gatorama, and we definitely will come back for the fabulous experience of holding that egg in your hand and watching it hatch....A big thanks to Alan and Patty Register, the owners, for keeping their ranch/farm open to the public. May they have many more years of success!