Albuquerque zoo carries in big gators for new exhibit

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – How do you get a 10 foot, 200 pound alligator into Albuquerque’s zoo?

That’s what zookeepers had to figure out Friday.

“Some of them were grumpy,” said Matt Eschenbrenner, zookeeper supervisor of reptiles.

After three years in the works, everyone was eager to get the first look at the zoo’s 10 new alligators.

Hundreds of pounds packed into the back of a horse trailer for the four hour trip from a southern Colorado gator farm.

“Some of the smaller ones were rolled up in a sleeping bag just to make them feel all nice and snuggly in there,” Eschenbrenner said.

In case of not so snuggly gators, they did take precautions.

The alligators’ mouths and eyes were taped shut as they carried them to a stretcher for a quick checkup before releasing them into the enclosure.

“Got them in. Got a base weight on them, so we know what they’re coming in at,” said Dr. Ralph Zimmerman, the head veterinarian.

He said the gators are 7 to 11 feet long, weighing anywhere from 130 to nearly 220 pounds.

“There is a big female in here, and she’s the heaviest and the longest,” Zimmerman said. “She’ll be the boss and run herd on everybody.”

Zookeepers said they have prepared for the new challenges they will face with the size of these animals.

“The enclosure is built with these logs, fake tree stumps and stuff so we can use those as barriers while we’re working around the gators,” Eschenbrenner said.

Now that they have personally welcomed each and every one of the new guests, the zoo is looking forward to sharing them with the public for the first time next week.

The grand opening of the new gator exhibit is Fri., Apr. 10 at 2 p.m.

The new large alligators are replacing nine smaller ones that the zoo donated to that gator farm in Colorado. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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