Exotic Animals: Alligators

Alligators are the most dangerous of the exotic pets. It is a crocodilian, which comes from the family of Alligatoridae. The name was derived from Anglicization of a Spanish word, which was used by Spanish explorers who settled in Florida, United States. Alligators are found mostly in America and China.

There are two species of alligators, Alligator Mississippienis or the American Alligator and Alligator Sinensis or the Chinese Alligator. The American alligator weighs around eight hundred pounds and is thirteen feet long. The record for the longest alligator is nineteen feet two inches, from Louisiana. Comparatively, the Chinese alligators are smaller in length and measure not more than seven feet in length. Alligators live for more than fifty years. The oldest living alligator was seventy years old, at the Belgrade Zoo, Serbia.

There are many features of alligators that distinguish them from crocodiles and both of them belong to different taxonomic families. Alligators have a broader snout and their eyes are located near the upper side. When a light is flashed over the eyes, bigger alligators have a red glow and smaller alligators have a green glow. This can be of help, when searching for alligators in the dark. When looking in daylight, it is also observed that alligators have brown eyes and crocodiles have green eyes.

When alligators close their jaws only the upper teeth are visible where as in crocodiles the upper as well as the lower teeth are visible when they close their jaws. The shape of an alligator’s mouth is like a “U” and that of the crocodile is like a “V”. Although both of the animals have a darker hide, almost black, the color depends on their habitats. The Chinese alligators have a light pattern, alligators living in algae growing water are greenish black and waters with high tannic acid released from hanging trees have a darker hide.

Alligators can eat anything they can find because of the gastroliths (stomach stones) present in their stomach. Young alligators feed on crustaceans, fish, snails, and insects. As they grow so does their need for larger prey. Bigger alligators feed on turtles, bigger fish, birds, and other reptiles and mammals. They even eat deer, razorbacks, small alligators and carcasses of animals when they are extremely hungry. A few attacks on humans have also been reported, but the number is on the rise. People get overconfident about this fact and enter alligator habitats without much care, resulting in provoking their aggression. But alligators do not immediately attack humans, unlike crocodiles.

The alligator farming industry is seeing a rapid rise in Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The purpose of such farms is to get alligator hides and nearly forty five thousand hides are distributed annually from these farms. The hides are very expensive and a seven-foot hide costs as much as $300, but the prices vary every year. The meat of alligators is also in great demand, which is approximately three hundred thousand pounds every year.

Alligators have now become very protected and regulated animals. Special processing is undergone to get custody of an alligator. Usually baby alligators can be bought in Florida. Owners are given a special license and must be aware of their responsibilities. It’s against the law in many states to remove an alligator from its natural habitat. Alligator pets should be provided with a large and wet habitat, similar to their natural subtropical habitats, to live in.

Alligators are bound to get aggressive and dangerous at times, which can prove fatal to people around them. Owners should be prepared, as their pet can grow more than twelve feet long. Some owners panic when they start getting bigger and longer and decide to free them from their captivity. But this can be extremely dangerous to residents of that locality because by then the animal would have lost its natural fear and will attack humans. When a decision is made to adopt an alligator as a pet, the owner should be determined enough to make a lifetime commitment.

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