GRIFFITH PARK — It’s spring. A time for new romance. Even at the Los Angeles Zoo, where a new couple is now on display.
Tina, a mature, female American alligator, has moved in to the former bachelor pad of Reggie, the infamous alligator who was found living in Lake Machado in Harbor City in 2005.
Reggie received worldwide notoriety by avoiding capture for two years after he was discovered in the urban park lake setting 2,000 miles or so from his natural habitat.
Wildlife officials assumed Reggie had been raised since a baby by someone, but had outgrown wherever he was staying and was dumped in Lake Machado, which is part of Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, operated by the city of Los Angeles.
He finally was captured in 2007 and relocated to the zoo.
Last August, Tina was acquired by the zoo after spending 18 years at the Pasadena Humane Society. The nearly seven-foot-long alligator came to Pasadena in 1998 as part of a traveling wildlife education program.
After the owners failed to get proper permits in California, Tina and the other animals ended up at the humane society in what was supposed to be a temporary situation. The other animals were eventually adopted, but Tina was unable to find placement outside of the shelter.
As she started to outgrow her habitat at the humane society, it was decided that she would move to the L.A. Zoo last summer.
After somewhat of a bumpy introduction period last August, Reggie and Tina have grown close and are now happily sharing the same habitat — a Louisiana-inspired swamp with a pool, waterfall, ficus trees and plenty of shade.
The pair recently awoke from brumation, a hibernation-like state that cold-blooded animals utilize during very cold weather, earlier this month and can be seen swimming, floating and sunning themselves on the rocks together.
“This is really the best case scenario when introducing two alligators who are used to living alone,” said Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo. “It was a labor intensive process helping these two alligators grow comfortable with each other, and it required a lot of patience from the animal keepers as they kept a close eye on the pair.
“But, Reggie and Tina have come a long way since August, and we can already see how positively guests are responding to the fact that Reggie now has a roommate.”
Recchio said the pair aren’t meant to breed, but there is still a lot visitors of the zoo can learn about wild animals native to the United States by observing Reggie and Tina.
“The L.A. Zoo has almost always had male and female pairs of alligators on display since it opened 50 years ago, and now we are lucky to have a pair on exhibit again,” Recchio said. “There is a significant difference in size between males and females, and our visitors might get lucky and witness some of the amazing behaviors they display as a pair.”
Native to wetlands throughout the southeastern United States, American alligators have large, slightly rounded bodies with thick limbs, broad heads, and powerful tails. Males can grow up to 14 feet in length, while females can reach eight feet in length.
In 1967, alligators were listed as an endangered species. However, combined efforts by federal and state wildlife agencies have saved these unique animals. Today, although no longer endangered, the American alligator’s greatest threat is humans, habitat destruction and water pollution.