An alligator observatory and rescue center is expanding in Jennings.
It’s called the Gator Chateau, and the city, which is investing $600,000 into the project, hopes the expansion helps put Jennings on the map.
At the Gator Chateau, baby alligators are adopted, nurtured and set free when they’re ready to fend for themselves.
Jeff Davis Tourist Commissioner Dione Sabelhaus says the hope for the center is to attract visitors while teaching them how to be safe around alligators and respect their natural habitat.
“You listen for a sound because alligators will give you a warning before they attack. They’ll hiss. They’ll breathe in and let the air out, so it hisses. And, they’ll do it a couple of times, and it’s kinda like a bark," Sabelhaus said.
Alligators are familial and don’t want to have anything to do with humans.
In fact, officials at Gator Chateau say there has not been one recorded case of a someone being killed by an alligator in the Jennings area.
It’s not all just education. Gator Chateau is very much about fun too.
"There’s only a few places in the country where you can hold baby alligators. Or alligators for that matter," said Gator Chateau docente Hailey Kunzler.
“It’s kind like having a pet, because if you have a pet, you love it, you care for it, you do what you can for it. I come here every morning, and I wash them and I feed them and I hold them, and I care for them. They’re my babies,” laughed Kunzler.
The gators names also serve as a way to teach Cajun culture to visitors.
"Gumbo, Adeline, Babette, which means bug, and Punaise which means stinkbug. So, we just a lot of time name them Cajun names and phrases so a lot of people ask what’s that, and we can tell them a little bit about Cajun French as well,” Sabelhaus said.
While alligators may seem friendly at times, it’s important to know that if you see one in your yard or pool, it’s illegal to try to pick it up.
"They really don’t want to harm anybody. They don’t want to attack or eat humans. They just really want to be left alone and they’ve been around for millions of years,” Sabelhaus said.
If you need help safely removing a gator call Wildlife and Fisheries.
To find out more about Cajun Chateau: click here.