This column originally appeared in San Pedro Today
On a recent trip to the Los Angeles Zoo with my children, I looked into what seemed to be an empty exhibit with a waterfall. Unable to see any animal, I glanced at the sign and it read Reggie the Alligator. So, this is where he ended up, I thought, behind bars. Like many child stars, his years of fame were over and the paparazzi and his fans had moved on. The city’s most famous alligator was now living out the remainder of his life in the pen, alone.
Reggie was originally the illegal pet of a former policeman. When Reggie outgrew his welcome in suburbia, his former owner released him at Harbor Regional’s Park Lake Machado in Harbor City. He was first spotted in the lake in August 2005, which started a media sensation, with newspaper headlines that read “Reggie Watch.”
While other states manage to live with alligators in the wild, this is California, home to “Storm Watch” where the chance of rain somewhere in Southern California triggers media frenzy. This usually means when I finally have the opportunity to enjoy a movie on Cox Cable, which I pay an outrageous $107 per month, an Emergency Alert System broadcast announcing rain in Palmdale freezes my cable for five minutes. Poor Reggie never had a chance and his every move was documented by the media via “Reggie Watch.”
While alligators are not native to California, Reggie seemed to be doing fine in his new home. For nearly two years, Reggie lived freely and peacefully at the lake, skillfully avoiding his captures, the City of Los Angeles. If a bear is captured swimming in a pool in the City of Monrovia, it doesn’t mean a one way ticket to the circus for the bear. Because bears are native to the area, they are usually released in the wild. For Reggie, I guess the wild was just too far for the City of Los Angeles and when he was finally caught, it was by an employee of the zoo. I know finding a place to release Reggie and having him transported there may have been costly and difficult, but certainly less then housing and feeding him for the rest of his life at the zoo.
Reggie has been living in solitary confinement at the zoo since his arrival. He managed to escape once from his exhibit traveling several hundred yards before being caught again, probably trying to get back to the lake where he spent the best years of his life. I always wondered why he wasn’t released into a more natural environment. There had to be a place somewhere, I thought, so I called the zoo.
“Why wasn’t Reggie released into the wild when he was captured,” I asked.
“He was someone’s pet,” responded Zoo Spokesperson Jason Jacobs.
“But he lived on his own, in the wild, for nearly two years. How was his health when he came to the zoo?” I inquired.
“The vet said he was in great health. Have you seen where he lives? It is nice,” said Jacobs.
“Yes, I have seen the waterfall. Why is Reggie living alone?” I questioned.
“Because alligators are solitary animals,” said Jacobs.
“So is going to live alone forever?” I asked.
“I don’t know but he can’t be put in with our other two alligators,” said Jacobs.
“I thought alligators were solitary animals,” I replied.
“We are building a new alligator exhibit. Are people asking about Reggie,” asked Jacobs.
“No, just me,” I said. Just me….
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