Abandoned New Jersey alligator finds new home in Florida

history at a glance


  • A juvenile alligator was found abandoned inside a plastic container in a parking lot in Neptune Township, New Jersey, on January 15.

  • The Humane Society transferred the alligator to the Cape May County Park and Zoo, where it will be cared for until Kevin Wilson, the reptile department’s supervising animal keeper, can transport it to Tampa, Florida.

  • There he will be cared for at Croc Encounters, a Tampa-based animal sanctuary and education center.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A young alligator found abandoned inside a plastic bin in a New Jersey parking lot has found a new home in Florida.

The alligator was found late at night in Neptune Township, New Jersey, on January 15, when a teenager reported seeing a storage container in the middle of a parking lot. Police later found out that the boy arranged the abandonment together with the alligator’s owner.

Police said the owner originally bought the animal at a reptile show in Pennsylvania. The teen concocted a plan to abandon the alligator after “his parents refused to let him keep the 3-foot-long reptile,” the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wrote on Facebook. . He reportedly called the police by pretending to be a Good Samaritan.

The owner is facing charges from the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife for keeping a prohibited and dangerous exotic species as a pet. The teen, along with his parents, are facing charges of falsifying a police report, according to the SPCA.

The Humane Society transferred the alligator to the Cape May County Park and Zoo, where it will be cared for until Kevin Wilson, the reptile department’s supervising animal keeper, can transport it to Tampa, Florida.

Wilson said people frequently call the zoo to donate their reptiles as pets. Some can be locally relocated, but that’s not the case with alligators.

“It is illegal to keep alligators as pets here in New Jersey, and most are euthanized if they are confiscated by police,” Wilson said in an email to WFLA.com. “I didn’t think killing them was the right thing to do, so I looked for options.”

More than 15 years ago, several reptile experts suggested that Wilson contact Croc Encounters, a Tampa-based animal sanctuary and education facility that often travels to the Northeast to collect unwanted crocodiles. The zoo has been shipping alligators to Tampa ever since.

“We quarantine them away from the zoo collection and transport them to Croc Encounters every year in my spare time,” Wilson said.

Croc Encounters staff said the facility has welcomed hundreds of animals over the past 18 years. Some smaller alligators are loaned out to zoos before returning to the sanctuary to live out their days.

“Our mission at Croc Encounters is to be a haven for unwanted reptiles and to be an educational center,” Karina Sura Paner, of Croc Encounters, told WFLA.com.

Wilson said he’s grateful for the zoo’s 15-year partnership with the sanctuary, which has given dozens of animals a new lease on life after escaping the illegal pet trade.

“Over the years, more than 75 alligators have been given a second chance that might not have happened if it weren’t for Croc Encounters,” Wilson said.

He said it could be a while before the rescued alligator arrives in Florida, as they are still coordinating transportation.

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