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Visit the Oldest Alligator Farm

An Inside Look at Everglades Alligator Farm

When you’re in the South Florida, don’t forget to add the oldest alligator farm in the area to your itinerary. Containing more than 2,000 alligators, Everglades Alligator Farm is the perfect place to learn about these fascinating ancestors of dinosaurs. Whether you want to zoom through the shallow waters during an exhilarating airboat ride, or sit the edge of your seat during an alligator or snake show, there is always a unique experience to be had at the farm.

Everglades Alligator Farm is unique in itself, as it is the only working alligator farm in South Florida; meaning they still breed and collect eggs out of their facility every year. In addition, the farm works with Florida Wildlife and Conservation in trapping and training. According to CEO Matthew Thibos, the handlers at the farm train conservation officers on safe alligator capture techniques.

The extensive training and practice of the handlers ensures a safe environment for both the visitors and the alligators, so don’t worry about getting caught between the jaws of a gator. “We try to make it a comfortable experience,” explains Thibos. “There is definitely some fear though, a lot of people are afraid of snakes. A lot of people have never held an alligator or snake before coming here.” To keep it as stress free as possible, the alligators involved in the shows are rotated every day.

Not all the alligators at the farm have been bred on site, though. “We have several from the wild,” says Thibos. “Usually we receive alligators from shows like Gator Boys. A nuisance alligator will end up in someone’s pool and it becomes a danger to the environment. Gators are incredibly territorial. They will keep showing up to the same place.” By taking in these gators, Everglades Alligator Farm is protecting them from being euthanized. “There’s a three-strike policy. If an alligator is relocated three times, and still is a nuisance, the officers have no choice but to euthanize.

According to Thibos, the farm provides a great balance between education and fun, for the visitors and also the employees. Education is a big part of the training process for handlers. “We do all of the training in-house. We don’t hire people who have learned at other facilities. We hire guys with great personalities and then train them to be handlers.” Handlers start from the bottom for example, working in animal maintenance at the farm. They learn by taking care of the animals. “Then we move into having them talk about animals. From there, they are promoted into demonstrations in the snake shows primarily working with non-dangerous snakes.” After mastering the snake demonstrations, the handlers are ready to move on to the gators. First, with feeding demonstrations then eventually with the alligator show. This extensive learning process for the handlers benefits everyone involved—themselves, the gators and the audience.

The most popular aspect of the farm is the alligator show and is perfect for anyone wanting to have a greater understanding of a creature they may fear. At the conclusion of the show, there is even an opportunity to hold a baby alligator and take a photo. Everglades Alligator Farm is open daily 9 am to 5:30 pm and shows and times can be found on their website.

- By Ettractions Digital Content Editor PAULA MARINO

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