Animal Diaries Archive
Baby gators have a happy life ahead at Australia Zoo
25 January 2008
Hi everyone, Roving Jackie here. Over the last four months I have had the most amazing time working with many different animals as a part of the roving wildlife team here at Australia Zoo. The most interesting animals I work with are the baby American Alligators (Alligator mississipiensis).
Our youngest group of alligators are nearly one year old and it has been really fascinating to watch their growth. Our lovely couple Barney and Fang 2, have 19 baby offspring which hatched in February last year and were an average length of around 17cm.
Alligators are incredibly slow growing and may take up to 10 years to reach an adult size of around 1.5m, and 20 to 30 years or more to get to around 3m in length. How fast they grow depends on how much food they can eat, so the alligators that are better at catching their prey will grow the fastest.
Within this youngest group of alligators it is amazing to see that a few are already much larger than the rest of the group. These are the ones that are naturally stronger and manage to get more food than the other smaller alligators. In the wild it is these larger, faster growing alligators that would be the survivors.
Unfortunately for most wild alligators the chance of survival is small, with only one in 200 hatchlings actually making it through to adulthood. This is the reason why alligators have large clutches of up to 40 eggs. The new hatchlings are so small that they are incredibly vulnerable to all sorts of predators including birds, large fish and even adult male alligators who will eat their own young if they get the chance! Luckily for the hatchlings, the mother is very protective and will try to look after her offspring for up to two years; after that they are on their own.
Of course the outlook is much happier for all our baby alligators here at Australia Zoo, and all 19 babies have an excellent chance of living to a ripe old age of at least 70 to 80 years.
Our Amazing American Alligators
Crocodilians are grouped into one of three families. Crocodylidae, Alligatoridae and Gavialidae. The American alligator belongs to the sub family Alligatorinae ...more