The state of Florida in the southeastern United States is called the "Sunshine State," a place where tourists from all over the world go to enjoy the beaches, theme parks and other popular attractions. But it is also known as the "Alligator State," for the indigenous reptiles that call Florida's vast wetlands home.
Once on the endangered list, today the state's alligator population is thriving. Recently, VOA's Ade Astuti and Ariadne Budianto went to Florida to get up close and personal with the American alligator. Jim Bertel narrates.
Everglades National Park is a huge swamp in southern Florida that is best known for its wildlife, most notably its alligators. Just outside the park is the Everglades Alligator Farm, a privately owned tourist attraction that raises the state's most famous reptile.
Visitors can explore the farm's waterways by boat and feed the alligators swimming in the river.
"You get to see every little detail of them, it's pretty neat," said one visitor. Another added, "I think it's a good way to show them to people, because obviously we are not used to see those strange animals."
The farm began commercially breeding alligators in 1985 in an effort to save the large reptiles from extinction. Everyday the farm presents a variety of shows for tourists featuring snakes, exotic reptiles and alligators.
Desiree Dou works and performs with the alligators. She confesses that she was apprehensive the first time she worked with them. "I was nervous, but I wasn't scared. I really wanted to do it. So, it was just nerves. Because I didn't know how it would turn out. Because it's one of those things where you either do it right the first time, or you get it wrong and you lose a finger."
The 2,000 alligators at the farm are raised in pens and breeding ponds and can grow as much as a meter a year. While the large alligators are too dangerous to touch, park visitors can pose with baby alligators, a souvenir picture that nearly every visitor wants to take home.