Meet the ‘Gators – A Visit to St Augustine Alligator Farm, Florida

On April 27, 2012 by Nelson Fernandez

When someone says to you, “We are the only zoo in the world that has every species of crocodilian,” you know you are in dangerous territory, but your curiosity wins over your self-defence instincts, and you listen on. “There are 23 species in the world and you can see them all in our zoo”, continues John Brueggen, director of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida. “We also display a 20-metre python, king cobra and Komodo dragons, among other reptiles.”

It’s quite unlikely you’ll fall in love with alligators, but some people do. “I’ve known I was going to work in the zoo field since I was five years.  I have always loved animals, especially reptiles.” Through hard work he ended up managing this unique zoo which, apart from its jaw-dropping collection of crocodilians, also keeps a large range of exotic birds and small primates.

John prides himself and his team in doing the right stuff with their creatures and he assures us they never had any criticism from animal rights groups. “We do a quality job with our animals,” he says. “We are not a farm in the true sense of the word. We do not harvest animals here.”

It may come as a surprise but crocodiles are actually quite friendly – at least they’re friendly with certain birds. “One of our best exhibits is the two-acre swamp which draws wading birds – egrets, herons, wood storks, spoonbills and others – from the surrounding area. They all chose to make their nests above the alligators because then their nests are safe from nest-raiding predators such as raccoons, possums, rats and snakes,” John says. “Visitors can get extremely close to our nesting birds.”

If you are brave enough to get this close you may as well be up for another of the farm’s top attractions. It’s called Crocodile Crossing. John describes it as a “challenge course and zip line course”  that goes over half the farm, and where visitors can zip over live alligators and crocodiles.  (If they dare, one is tempted to add.)

As for seasonal activities, the farm hosts a rather bizarre one. John explains, but only briefly: “Our biggest event is trick-or-treating through the zoo around Halloween.” He doesn’t reveal any more about this mysterious event, but I could imagine that it’s better to give them the sweets if they ask. If you’d like to see this for yourself, just take a look at our fantastic offers for holidays in Florida.