I have always wanted to wrestle an alligator. Well…not really, but I did think it sounded pretty cool, as long as I did not lose any body parts. The folks at Orlando’s Gatorland (http://www.gatorland.com/) were nice enough to invite me out to their place to see if I have what it takes to tame these creatures. Wendy and I were greeted by Gatorland staff members Mark McHugh, CEO; and head Gator Wrestlers Tim Williams and Mike Hileman. We were first introduced to Trezo Je, which is Cajun Creole for Treasure Eye. He is one of four brothers (all leucistic) that live in White Gator Swamp at Gatorland. These are ordinary alligators with an extraordinary appearance, and there are only 13 in the world. Their white skin is caused by leucism (loo-sism), a rare genetic trait related to albinism. Leucistic gators, which are rarer than albinos, get their coloration from a recessive or “masked” gene. The 300 lb. Trezo Je greeted me with a hiss and a smile while Mike explained to me that I look like a big hot dog to him. Okay, great! Time to move on.
We were then introduced to the 13-foot Chester, who ate a few large dogs in Tampa and was re-located to Gatorland. Chester greeted us with a horrible hissing noise, then turned his back to us and opted to “sleep in” this morning. Oh darn, no fun with Chester today. Now that we had a few introductions, it was time to get in the gator wrestling arena. While Wendy watched from the sidelines with a video camera, Mike and Tim were “kind” enough to teach me a few key safety features of my new 200 lb wrestling opponent. I had no idea “gator riding” would be involved, so be sure to watch the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI500MD_ooc) to share my shock! After mastering gator wrestling (and riding), we moved on to the Breeding Pond where we fed 30 hungry gators while some were just a few inches away! During the feeding, I chatted with Gatorland’s CEO Mark McHugh about this amazing attraction and its fabulous creatures. The place really does have something for everyone, and I strongly encourage you to visit next time you are in Orlando. For details, visit http://www.gatorland.com/.
We ended the Gatorland experience by playing with the youngsters. These small alligators are hatched nearby and raised at Gatorland with other gators their size and age. We even got Wendy to hold one. Stay tuned as we schedule more trips to Gatorland.