Conservation Pulse - Episode 1 at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm
Welcome to our first edition of Conservation Pulse - an exciting glimpse into some conservation efforts from around the globe! This week, we had an amazing time visiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm began as a small exhibit of alligators, native venomous snakes, and other wild animals in 1893 and boasts a fascinating "old Florida" history over 100 years in the making! Today, it's the only facility in the world where you can see every species of crocodilian.
We walked into the park on a warm, spring day with sunlight trickling through the canopy and children running across winding boardwalks trying to take it all in. The park is big, and full, and there's something to see and learn at every corner.
Our first stop was to meet the Curator of Education, Trevor Mia. You can see Trevor's passion as he speaks about the animals and engages visitors along our walk with fun facts and first names. "This is Lilly, a Southern Cassowary who is native to Australia. Southern Cassowaries like Lilly were greatly affected by the wild fires", he says to an excited young girl peering through the fence of the enclosure. Trevor shares with us that education is vital to conserving species, not only in the park - but across the world! His energy is both compelling and contagious and we can feel the importance and urgency of sharing such a large collection of animals; some that many visitors have never even heard of.
Next up, we met with General Curator Gen Anderson. Gen walks us through the Land of the Crocodiles and points out the parents of the West African Crocodile eggs that are currently incubating at the farm!
As we walk past some particularly charismatic Red Knobbed Hornbills we hear a woman gasp and turn towards her partner, "Take a picture of this! I've never seen anything like it." Gen walks up to the guest with her affable smile and calls the hornbill down so the guest can get a better look, and a better picture! She proudly declares, "he's my boyfriend", and that point is hard to argue when we've all just witnessed the indisputable connection they share as he hops his way down a large branch towards her.
Gen has a good-natured warmth that makes her approachable and an incredible base of knowledge that's indisputably evident in everything she says. She takes us to see the incubating eggs in the crocodilian nursery and handles them with a careful delicacy you might not expect for an animal that will hatch into such a strong and adept predator. We're able to see the tiny crocodile as it develops inside the egg through candling - a monitoring technique that allows you to see through the shell with the help of a bright light. We're immediately awestruck by this tiny little life growing in front of our eyes! Gen tells us more about the West African Crocodile being split from the Nile Crocodile into its own species due to genetic and morphologic variations, and expresses the importance of the 12 fertile eggs produced by Tyra & Rex - who you can visit at their exhibit in the park. We can't wait to follow the progress of these babies as they hatch and the conservation status of this species. We hope you'll enjoy this episode and visit the park soon!