Posted by: adventuressetravels | July 26, 2010

Modern Day Dinosaurs

Gliding through water lily spangled pathways between “hardwood hammocks” of trees one could really picture what the earth had looked like during the time of the dinosaurs.   Slowly drifting forward, we learned about the residents of the swamp; brightly colored birds, green herons, and of course our modern-day dinosaurs who lurked, all but hidden, only their strategically-placed eyes and nose poking out of the water.

We stopped to look at exotic-looking bright blue birds, blue and green herons, listened to the pig-like grunting of bull frogs, all the time keeping our eyes peeled for the stars of our show – alligators.  As it had been unseasonably warm, these cold blooded residents of the everglades were hiding in the shadows trying to cool down

Alligator Hiding

When we reached the open saw grass, the ranger told us to put in the ear plugs he had given us, and showed us what the airboat could do.  As the giant fan on the back air boat whirled faster and faster the roar of the boat increased.  Soon I happily stuffed the orange ear plugs into my ears.  We flew across the open field of reeds and grasses poking their heads out of the shallow water.

P, the tall slim Taiwanese girl sat beside me on the airboat and I laughed as the wind blew through our hair.  We had talked about going since we met at Ranger T’s Fourth of July party.  I was glad to have company, and even happier I was finally here.  After all, going to Miami and missing the incredible natural beauty that surrounded it would have been awful.

I soaked up the wild expanse of water, grass, and tangled trees enjoying every minute.  I have always loved nature, and had been hearing about the famous Florida Everglades since I was a child.  This wildlife-rich ecosystem had always held a certain mystique to it.  A world apart from the rest of the US.  I had heard right… this was unlike anywhere else I had seen.  When the airboat pulled up to dock I was almost disappointed we had not gotten to spend more time exploring the primordial waters of the Everglades.

Airboats

But are tour was not over yet.  We still a wildlife show to attend.  Our little busload of people filed in to a little outdoor theater and sat on the rustic wooden benches in front of a gated-off sand pit.  The bearded man in his khaki uniform and cowboy hat standing in front of an enormous alligator was something out of Crocodile Dundee.   With a broad grin, he walked up to his side-kick and launched into his performance.

More of a showman than a ranger, the man told us all about alligators, from how wrestling was originally used by Indians to capture them alive, to the vast differences between the alligator, and its more ferocious cousin, the crocodile.

“Their jaws are like a mousetrap,” the ranger stuck his hand inside the monster of an alligator’s mouth waving it around.  “If you don’t touch it then nothing.  But as soon as it feels the slightest pressure then…” he brushed the outside of the creature’s mouth with a pen.  Snap the jaws crashed down on the little piece of plastic with an audible snap.

After the alligator section of the show he introduced us to all sorts of species of native Floridian animals, and some creatures from distant lands.  He explained a little bit about each one, the point, he told us was to familiarize people with the animals.  Seeing, touching, and hearing these animals’ stories made them more real.  It helped people to care more about the world, preserving habitats, and hopefully

I had wanted to see the everglades, but doing it at an alligator farm felt slightly wrong to me.  Seeing the alligators in their cages just made me sad.  These modern-day dinosaurs raised in chain-link cages, within sight of their natural habitat.  So close but so far… The whole thing just seemed tragic.  And I was party to supporting this cruel industry.

No, the ranger told me.  Alligator farms were actually working to help alligators.  They put a lot of money into research to help these creatures.  Not thirty years ago alligators were an endangered species.  Now, thanks to alligator farms there were too many in the wild, he told us in his gruff alligator-tamer voice.  If more people lived on the land we would take much better care of our world.

I had to agree with that.  It felt a little better about it, better enough to hold a young one.  Not that that would have taken much, I am a sucker for animals.  I always love interacting with them, holding, feeding, and playing with them.

The creature was surprisingly light in my arms, and even more startling its skin was far from rough.  My new friend’s soft, smooth skin was a pleasure to touch.  It made sense – people used the stuff for everything from boots to handbags.  But no matter what the alligator handler said, I couldn’t imagine hurting such an interesting creature.

On the way back I smiled, it had been a satisfying day; I had finally gotten to see the Everglades, held an alligator, and learned about a whole new ecosystem and part of the world.  Adventures, learning, and animals; I couldn’t have asked for a better day!

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Responses

  1. hey there —

    This is Danny from myspace for Rec. Therapist.

    I’m following your blog now.

    Thanks for the email about it.

  2. Sally,
    What a wonderful experience! Loved seeing you hold that baby croc-cute, I noticed his mouth was tied shut-good idea. I heard that the mothers do nurture their yound, even give them rides on their backs, is that true?
    QWhen I was young, some friends had an air boat, & we went on all the local rivers. Once we were on a flooding river, going along, the river bent & we didn’t, & soon we were gliding along on wet alfafa!-went just fine!
    Love,
    Mom


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