Beastly Beat
Moease the American Alligator

By Leslie Whitt (2005)

When I got Moease, he was a spotted hatchling, only 8 inches long and a few ounces. I was living in Natchez, Mississippi at the time. He and I spent quality time together doing things like watching TV on the couch. Then on February 16, 1974, I began my life-long career as Zookeeper, Zoo Maintenance Department of One, Zoo Curator, Zoo Director or whatever role was needed at the Alexandria Zoo at any given time.

Before Moease arrived at the Zoo, he had spent his life in tubs, tanks, shower stalls, and even in my first apartment on Albert Street. In fact, from about the 1st of February until it was warm enough that spring to go outside, he and seven other five-foot alligators lived in the bedroom under my bed. This wasn't a problem until my landlord who was completely unaware of the animals, showed the house to a potential buyer. Needless to say, the house did not sell.

Eventually, Moease and the other alligators were moved to the Zoo's alligator enclosure which had a pool that was maybe one foot at its deepest point. Many alligators were brought to the Zoo, and many were returned to wild areas and wildlife preserves, but Moease remained at the Zoo with the old blind alligator that everyone remembers from long ago and one female called Chopper for good reason.

All of life changed for the three alligators when the award-winning Louisiana Habitat Exhibit was built. To say the least, it was overwhelming for me to see Moease and the other two alligators enter a pool large enough to swim in. I had to practically push him in the pool. It was as if he was not sure what to do in that much water.

We all wondered, "Could he swim?" Well, of course he could and within a few minutes Moease and the others were floating around the pool, checking out all of us excited zoo folks at the viewing windows in the new exhibit. What a day for all of us, the zoo staff and the huge reptiles.

Moease and Chopper still remain in the exhibit. Some days visitors have difficulty seeing them beacuse as alligators do, they have wallowed in the muddy bank to form a huge mud hole that they absolutely love. It's been fun watching this once tiny little reptile gradually grow to be almost 9 feet long and around 600 pounds. But it's even more satisfying to see that you've improved an animal's life.

You can see Moease and Chopper located in Louisiana Habitat at the Alexandria Zoo.

Click here to learn more about the American Alligator.