Staff at Hunter Valley Zoo got down and dirty on Wednesday – all in the name of alligator health.
The zoo was conducting its annual alligator health check, in the lead-up to the breeding season – and arguably Nulkaba’s largest resident, a formidable beast named Horse – was given the all clear.
Horse, aged 52, who tipped the scales at a whopping 264 kilograms, outweighs his closest male counterpart by 100kg and needs his own dam to accommodate his size.
His girlfriend, 14-year-old B2, also underwent the health check and she weighed in at an equally impressive 96 kilograms.
Alligator keeper Daniel Mabbott said that it took 11 staff members to wrangle Horse and B2 who, in the past, had proved less-than-willing patients.
“We drained the dam this year so he [Horse] was easier to get out – he had been a little slippery in previous years,” he said,
“Also, the female had a burrow under the jetty so we had to block that off as well.”
Mr Mabbott said that the process involved roping and blindfolding Horse and B2 before they were given a once-over, and will continue this week and next for the remaining 19 gators.
“We weigh and measure them and then run hands over them to make sure they’ve got no bumps or scratches,” he said.
“We also lay down on them so we can feel their breathing and check to see if they’ve got any mucous or nasty stuff in their noses.”
While Horse’s weight had plateaued from 2017, Mr Mabbott said B2, who laid 53 eggs last year, had gained 4 kilograms.
“They do a lot of growing when they’re younger, but he will continue to gain muscle mass,” he said. “And B2 was 96 kilos which is large for a female.”
Mr Mabbott added that Horse now appears to be getting a sense of his size.
“He looks at us more like prey now than a threat,” he said.
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