The discovery of a small alligator at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Nov. 1, 2013 brings the attention to the plight of reptiles being kept as pets in Illinois. When pet alligators get too big to handle, the Chicago Herpetological Society is often called in to step in and rehabilitate the reptile.
The Chicago area is not a natural habitat for alligators, which thrive in the southern climates, such as the Florida Everglades and Louisiana. Even though there are laws against keeping alligators and crocodiles in captivity in Illinois, there are people who thrill to the idea of having a unique pet.
The Chicago Herpetological Society is dedicated to the conservation of reptiles, including alligators and crocodiles. Occasionally speakers from the society give presentations to community groups, such as at CrocFest, which is periodically held at the Wildlife Discovery Center at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest, Ill., I attended CrocFest, an educational event for families, in Oct., 2011. Pictures from the presentation are attached in a slideshow.
The presentation included several live alligators and crocodiles, held in pens and kept warm with heat lamps at the temperature of their natural environment. The representative talked about the problems presented when the reptiles get too big and dangerous to handle.
When reptiles are relinquished, or confiscated, the Chicago Herpetological Society steps in to take over the care of the reptile and to place it in a proper environment. Often, the reptiles have health problems and need several months of rehabilitation before being placed in a farm or returned to the wild.
The representative talked about some recent experiences, such as the man who kept his alligator in the bathtub and was therefore afraid to use the bathroom. Hopefully, it was a spare bathroom.
There was also an alligator that had been living in a residential basement. As the alligator grew, the owner became afraid to go into the basement. Eventually the reptile grew to about six feet and would make its way up the steps and thump on the basement door, wanting to eat his owner. This particular man relinquished the alligator but later wanted it back, which was not a possibility at the time.
Children were facinated with the reptiles and were able to ask questions of the expert from the Chicago Herpetological Society. The presentation was an excellent opportunity for adults and children to learn about wildlife.