Nov 27, 2009 3:40 PM by AP

White Alligators in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - There's a new pair of white alligator hatchlings at the Audubon Nature Institute. White gators found 22 years ago have become a signature animal for the institute, which owns the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, and the Audubon Insectarium - where the new hatchlings are on exhibit.
The fullgrown 'gators have been seen at zoos around the world.
They aren't albino, but leucistic (loo-SYS-tik) - they have blue eyes, and many - like these two - have some dark spots.
The two new hatchlings were found a few miles from where a fisherman found the first 18 white hatchlings near Houma. A single female was found in 1994.
In 2003, South Carolina officials confiscated a leucistic alligator from men accused of taking it illegally. It died in 2006.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)



2 new baby white 'gators in Audubon Insectarium

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Two baby white alligators have joined the Audubon Nature Institute's collection, bringing the total to 12 - all of their kind known to exist.
The foot-long newcomers with blue eyes and a few brown "freckles" replaced normal juveniles at the Audubon Insectarium.
It wouldn't be safe to keep them with the 12-footers that have become signature animals at the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium of the Americas since a fisherman found a pod of 18 in 1987. Alligator mothers guard their own young, but any adult will happily munch on any other gator's babies.
Their new home is a tank around a faux baldcypress in the Louisiana Swamp exhibit of bug-eating critters.
Until alligators grow big enough to ambush turtles, birds and larger fish, they eat dragonflies and other insects, as well as
minnows and frogs.
"People ask me, why is this insect and that insect important," Zack Lemann, visitor programs manager at the insectarium, said Friday. One reason bugs are important, he said, is that other animals eat them in vast numbers.
These alligators aren't albino but leucistic (loo-SIS-tic), with a little pigment rather than none at all. Some reptile farms breed albino alligators, but that doesn't seem to be the case for their slightly pigmented brethren.
Lacking the usual camouflage of black and yellow bands, white babies would be easily found by bass, bigger gators, herons and egrets. Their lack of pigment also means they sunburn.
The two have been named Canal-igator and Chomp-itoulas - playing off of Canal and Tchoupitoulas (chop-uh-TOO-lus) streets in New Orleans. They were found in the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge near Houma.
That's the general area where a fisherman found the first 18 on oil company land. Louisiana Land & Exploration Co. gave two each to the zoo and aquarium. After a merger in 2001, Burlington Resources Inc. donated the remaining 12 to the institute. Two have since died.
Those not on show in New Orleans have been displayed at zoos and aquariums around the world.
This is the third recorded time that leucistic gators have been found in Louisiana - a female was found in 1994, but died.
In 2003, South Carolina officials confiscated three leucistic alligators from snake farm owners accused of taking them illegally.
Two died within days; the third in 2006.
Despite their rarity, the zoo doesn't breed its white alligators. Beauty and oddness don't make them important to the
species, spokeswoman Sarah Burnette said.
"We just appreciate them when they come our way, and really just consider it a gift from the universe," she said.
The insectarium's tank can accommodate alligators up to three or four feet long, so the babies will outgrow it in a matter of years.
"We'll figure something out for them," Burnette said. "I think we'd like to have white alligators at all of our attractions.
Just because it's kind of 'us'."
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(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)





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