Published May 28, 2021
Don’t miss your chance to encounter a cold-blooded marvel! (And be startled by those eyes — we’re partial to the sparkle.) Now open at the Indianapolis Zoo, guests can see Alligators & Crocodiles: The Fight to Survive presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers. It’s an unforgettable experience — especially if you’re lucky enough to meet one of our small, juvenile alligators up close and personal!
To see this all-new exhibit, just make your way to the west side of the Zoo, near the entrance to Plains. There, you’ll behold these remarkable reptiles — reaching up to 15 feet in length — while learning why these two species are on vastly different ends of the conservation spectrum.
One of our country’s greatest conservation success stories, the American alligator was considered endangered only a few decades ago. But, thanks to protections from the Endangered Species Act as well as conservation efforts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, the alligator bounced back. Their population now numbers in the millions in their native range in swamps, marshes, bayous, lakes, and rivers throughout the southeastern United States.
Fun fact: Though they’re the U.S.’s largest reptile species, with females growing 8-9 feet long while males can reach 10-15 feet long, these massive animals emerge from eggs roughly the size of an orange. As hatchlings, they’re less than a foot long!
These mysterious reptiles are the ultimate survivors and serve as ambassadors to their cousins under threat. The American alligator’s inspiring story gives us hope that we can make a difference in the survival of more species — including their close relative, the Orinoco crocodile.
Excessive hunting and habitat loss have made the Orinoco crocodile one of the world’s most critically endangered reptiles. Their natural area is the Orinoco River Basin, which extends into Colombia and Venezuela, making them the largest species of crocodilian in the Americas.
Not only are these some of the largest living reptiles, they’re also among the oldest. Crocodilians originated more than 200 million years ago. And with their scaly, armored bodies, sharp teeth, and massive tails, they closely resemble the dinosaur relatives they outlived.
And here’s another fun fact: When you look at the tough back of a crocodilian, those bony plates you see aren’t just for protection. Known as “osteoderms,” these bony scutes also act as heat-exchangers, allowing these large reptiles to rapidly raise or lower their temperature.
And did you know this? Even though they’re known for their toughness and power, crocodilians have an extremely acute sense of touch. In fact, if you get close to a juvenile alligator you may see small, pigmented domes dotting their skin around their face and jaws. Those are actually sensors. Studies have proven that these spots, which scientists call integumentary sensor organs or ISOs, help the animal track prey under water, and are even more sensitive to pressure and vibration than human fingertips.
There’s so much to learn about these awe-inspiring animals. Now is our chance to find out what each of us can do to help ensure their survival. By visiting now and becoming more knowledgeable about what makes them unique, you’re helping in the larger mission to make sure the Orinoco crocodile really can see us “after a while.”
Put another way, your trip to the zoo for some reptile “chit-chat” also helps preserve their habitat!
Pick your day. Pick your price. Pick your package. Prices online are cheaper than at the gate.