Today, in part one of a series entitled, "Parenting Skills for the New Century," I will address that often-asked question: Should you let your child wander loose in an alligator pen?
The answer, of course, is, no, you shouldn’t. You should carry him. Who knows what sort of nasty germs are on the floor of that pen! That’s why well-known "crock-hunter," Steve Irwin, keeps his son safely tucked under his arm when he feeds a thirteen-foot man-eater.
Of course, Steve’s a trained professional, just like that Vegas fellow, Roy. The folks at Alligator Adventure know it’s not a good idea for the average American to get anywhere close to an alligator, though their website promises, "At Alligator Adventure you’ll find yourself face to face with nature’s fiercest and most beautiful animals." No doubt their spoilsport legal advisors had a thing or two to say about that. With personal injury lawsuits on the rise (or perhaps in case Michael Jackson visits), warning signs are posted roughly every thirty feet throughout the park:
What will you find at Alligator Adventure? Well, in short, GATORS! About 900 of them, from hatchlings to leviathans like UTAN, the 20-foot "King of Crocs." I'd never seen such a gatorfest. There were any number of half-ton fat boys who looked like life in captivity really agreed with them:
For those of you who enjoy a good mutation (and who doesn’t?), there’s an alligator named Bob who was born without a tail. Bob wants out, real bad, though the sign outside his pen assured us that Bob wouldn’t have a chance in the wild. (Bob doesn’t know that, however, and no one’s had the heart to tell him.) Plus there are two huge albino alligators, Casper and Wendy (get it?), in their own special pavilion.
STUDY QUESTION: Have the alligators in the New York sewers developed albinism as an adaptive trait? Or are they merely cast-offs from an albino alligator breeding program?
Aside from watching tourists ignore the signs and lean waaay over the fence, the most enjoyable part of our visit was the 5,000-square-foot serpentarium. I’ve always had thing for reptiles, having never gotten over losing my pet horned toad in the sand box when I was growing up. (Those suckers move fast!) In the serpentarium, everyone was ooohing and ahhhing over the enormous pythons, anacondas, and cobras, and generally having a good time ignoring the "Do Not Tap on Glass" signs. I was happy to see my old friend the Aruban Rattlesnake, an endangered species, looking like he really wanted to endanger someone else.
Well, in conclusion, let’s just summarize what I learned at Alligator Adventure: 1) Dangling small children over alligator pens is illegal, at least in South Carolina; 2) when owning alligators is criminal, only criminals will own alligators; and 3) if confronted by a man-eating alligator, just ask yourself, "What would Steve Irwin do?"