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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 18, 2003 at 20:17:37:
Let's see now ... the last time somebody posted this sort of question; it was the equivilent of opening the door of a crowded room and yelling 'grenade'! Cheers all, Wes
STAR-TRIBUNE (Casper, Wyoming) 18 April 03 How much will a gator grow? (Brendan Burke)
Just how big will an alligator kept in an aquarium grow?
In an April 10 article in the Casper-Star Tribune, Matt Edwards of The Pet Barn, an Eastridge Mall store that sells baby alligators and other exotic pets, said the reptiles will grow to fit their environment. This means that if you house a gator in a large aquarium, it will not outgrow that aquarium.
Two crocodilian experts, however, disagree.
"That statement is absolutely not true," said Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecology professor at the University of Florida.
"That old saying that the animal will grow to the size of its container is completely untrue. And either the person is ignorant because they don't know better or they know better and they are lying," Mazzotti said.
Tom Lang, general manager of Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, S.D., agreed with Mazzotti on the growth of alligators.
"If you keep an alligator in an aquarium, eventually you are going to have to move it to a bigger aquarium," Lang said. "They won't maintain 2 feet forever and ever and ever. Its not like a bonsai tree."
According to Lang, an alligator kept in an aquarium or similar environment will have its growth stunted due to its living conditions, but it will still grow despite poor health.
"As a hatchling, if you were to keep it in an aquarium, or a sink basin, if you do that then obviously because they are in a small pen, they are not expending any energy," Lang said. "If the temperatures are kept warm, they metabolize a lot slower so obviously the amount of food that you give them can also be less. Therefore, all those things combined you can definitely stunt their growth. However, that is not going to be a very healthy animal and I will not expect them to live as long as an average alligator."
He added that alligators tend to have life spans similar to humans.
However, Jennifer Edwards, owner of The Pet Barn, said that in her experience, pet alligators kept in smaller environments do stop growing.
"Some of the people that own them or raise them will tell you that they only grow to their environment and they quit," Edwards said. "Maybe in the wild they do keep growing, obviously they do. But there is a noted difference from people that kept pets and the general view of it."
"Everybody that is into the reptiles has a different opinion, different stories," she said.
She added that a friend of hers had a pet alligator for 12 years and that animal did not outgrow the container in which it was kept.
Whether or not a gator will outgrow its aquarium home, Mazzotti believes that keeping an animal in a container like that is immoral. He equates the practice to child abuse.
"To me, I'm a crocodile biologist so I love those animals. I would equate that to the stories you hear of people abusing their children by locking them in closets. In the animal world, keeping an animal in an aquarium like that is equivalent to that," Mazzotti said.
STAR-TRIBUNE (Casper, Wyoming) 10 April 03 Gators for sale (Brendan Burke)
The Eastridge Mall became a more exotic and controversial place in February with the addition of the Pet Barn, a store that sells critters ranging from rare birds to giant spiders and even alligators.
"We're the closest thing to a zoo" in Casper, the Pet Barn's Jennifer Edwards said.
While the store has enchanted some of mall's patrons, it has also caused concern among at least one local parent who thinks it's inappropriate to sell animals like alligators to people who may not be able to take care of a potentially dangerous animal that has no chance of surviving in the cold Wyoming wild.
"I just think they are being irresponsible," Casper mother Christi Claycomb said. "They bring the alligators here and they are just going to die."
"I think that people think it's cute: 'Let's go buy an alligator, that would be funny,' But I don't think that anybody is serious about keeping one forever and ever and ever and making sure that it is OK," she added.
Edwards said her family-owned store does not sell an animal like an alligator to just anyone. They do not recommend that a family with young children buy an alligator or any other potentially dangerous animal, and they don't sell alligators to minors.
Her husband, store co-owner Matt Edwards, added that concerns that alligators will become too big for their owners' houses are unfounded -- reptiles grow to fit their environment. An alligator kept in a large aquarium will not outgrow that aquarium, he said.
The store also provides information on the animals they sell.
"We've been in the exotic animal business for 15 years," Jennifer Edwards said. "Nobody can tell them better how to care for the animals in town."
When someone does purchase an alligator or any other exotic animal from the store, the customer is provided with a packet detailing the housing, food and handling needs of the animal.
Rick Sulzen, field supervisor at Metro Animal Control, said the store is doing a fine job of educating customers about the needs of exotic pets.
"If they sell it to a responsible adult, and explain the steps needed and the requirements involved with that type of an animal, there shouldn't be any problems," Sulzen said. "And they have got all of their information packets that they give out with any animal that they sell, so they are covering themselves that way."
Sulzen added that the city of Casper places no restrictions on ownership of nonvenomous reptiles.
Jennifer Edwards said American alligators are the only crocodilian the store sells, although there is a Caiman, a relative of alligators, on display at the store.
The store currently has four alligators in stock and has sold around five at $150 apiece since the store opened, Edwards said. Because the Pet Barn only has alligators on a seasonal basis, when the four remaining animals are sold, no others will be available at the store for the rest of the year.