HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Hattiesburg Zoo.
The Hattiesburg Zoo staff is pleased to announce the addition of 14 baby alligators to the zoo family. Born last week, the birth of these baby alligators on site is a first in the zoo's 66-year history.
"We are thrilled to welcome these new hatchlings to our Zoo family. Because the Zoo is limited in its ability to accommodate breeding animal populations, these little gators are extra special to us!" said Rick Taylor, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention and Tourism Commissions.
The Zoo's male and female alligators, Pearl and Jacques, have been on exhibit since 2010 and 2015 respectively. Zookeepers say alligators nested at the Zoo in the past, but they have yet to see any eggs actually hatch.
"Back in July, a staff member noticed that Pearl was on the bank, scratching at the ground. They called me over to check it out, and, sure enough, she was slowly mounding up a nest," Stephen Taylor, Hattiesburg Zoo Animal Care Manager said.
"We kept our eyes on the nest and monitored when she was done mounding it up. We have had a nest in years past with a previous female, but the nest was proven to not be successful," Taylor added.
"If Pearl's nest was going to be successful, it would be the first time in the zoo's history to have alligators born. Needless to say, all of the zoo staff were overcome with joy at the thought of having baby alligators hatched at the zoo to our very own Jacques and Pearl," Stephen Taylor said.
Zookeepers retrieved the eggs from the nest on Friday, after approximately 11 weeks of waiting for the eggs to hatch.
"The zoo keepers were fully expecting to find bad eggs or no eggs at all. We began scratching at the surface of the nest, and, almost instantly, we could hear the croaks of baby alligators. We couldn't believe what we were hearing! We left the nest as it was, and we immediately started making preparations for them. We set up a tank and turned on the incubator in case some eggs still needed time to hatch. As we dug up the nest, some of the alligators were already emerging from their eggs, and many were still inside the eggs," Stephen Taylor said.
The 14 baby alligators were moved to the animal hospital on-site and kept in incubators to ensure safety. The baby gators are currently on exhibit in the Asbury Discover Center Reptile Area, where guests can view them from the window.
The Zoo is evaluating plans for where the gators will eventually go as they mature, and plan to keep several for educational outreach programs. The baby alligators are expected to grow to the size of 8 feet within 10-15 years.