New York celebrity Albert the Alligator now living in Texas’ Gator Country

New York celebrity Albert the Alligator now living in Texas’ Gator Country

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Albert Edward, an 11-foot alligator that made national headlines in March when New York officials removed the 750-pound reptile from its owner’s home outside Buffalo, is now a Texan.

Earlier this week, Beaumont’s KBMT-TV reported, Albert Edward—or Albert the Alligator, as the New York media came to call him—was successfully relocated from western New York to Gator Country, a 22-acre theme park and alligator sanctuary 15 miles southwest of Beaumont.

And not a moment too soon, said Gator Country owner Gary Saurage: “I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said Friday morning. “I take care of alligators that are missing tails, arms; sometimes they’re missing half their jaw, but I can tell you this: in 20 years I’ve never seen an alligator this ill.”

The alligator, Saurage said, is blind and grossly overweight, his ears have grown together, and has a neurological issue on his spine most likely related to a severe lack of thiamine, or vitamin B. Although the animal is 34 years old, and alligators typically survive between 40 and 60 years in the wild—and much longer in captivity, as with Gator Country’s star attraction, the 92-year-old Big Al—Saurage said he thought Albert’s ill health has already taken “years off his lifespan.”

Still, he promised to do everything he could to improve the reptile’s living conditions.

“We’re going to get some really good healthy proteins and calcium-enriched food, and we’re going to start getting him to move a little bit,” Saurage said. “We’ll just work slowly with him until we can get him exercising.

“I will tell you this,” he added. “The damage that has been done to this alligator is irreversible. We’re not going to fix the damage, we just want to make him more comfortable, maybe get him to exercise a little bit more.”

According to The New York Times, officers from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation removed Albert from his owner’s home in Hamburg, due south of Buffalo, on March 13. Owner Tony Cavallaro had bought the newborn Albert at an Ohio reptile fair, the Times said, and kept him in a building attached to the main house. Cavallaro, he told the Times, “treated Albert like a child and wanted to be reunited with him soon.”

However, the DEC claimed that not only had Cavallaro’s license to keep Albert expired after he failed to comply with updated regulations, but he had allowed people, including children, to enter the in-ground pool where the alligator lived. Cavallaro countered that he only allowed people into the pool to take photos, and Albert was usually asleep. Ultimately, the alligator was handed over to a licensed caretaker until a judge—whom Saurage said had “done his research”—ordered his relocation to Gator Country, where he arrived on May 8.

“The move was scheduled only after the alligator was cleared by a veterinarian and demonstrated a substantial health improvement following weeks of medical care, an appropriate diet, access to necessary UV light, and other living conditions conducive to its recovery,” the DEC said in a statement to Buffalo’s WIVB-TV.

Meanwhile, Albert has become a cause celebre in upstate New York, where more than 170,000 supporters have signed a petition to reunite him with Cavallaro. Saurage said he wasn’t interested in taking sides, just doing what he would with any other animal Gator Country, which he said is the only alligator-rehab facility of its kind in the U.S., would take in.

Some have been run over or even shot, he added. A TV series about Gator Country, Texas Gator Savers, has been airing on the EarthxTV cable network since last fall.

“My thought is if we can expand his life and make him comfortable, and give him the rest of his years, it’s going to be a whole lot better than where he came from,” Saurage said. “And the thing is, as hard as we’re working to try to get him in good shape, he is in such bad shape I really fear that he’s just not going to make it that much longer. But we’re working with him, and we’re trying.”

Albert did give Saurage at least one reason to be optimistic: he successfully completed the 1,500-mile journey from New York to Southeast Texas in the bed of an extended-cab pickup truck.

“They even had him pillows,” Saurage said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”