Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Alligator rescued, so some thought

Gator a crocodile, aquarium discovers

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Covington Police Officer Dan Farrell has seen his share of strange animals in 11 years on the job, but he could hardly believe his eyes Tuesday when he picked up what appeared to be an alligator at 19th and Garrard.

(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        The 2-foot-long animal was sunning itself in the grassy area between the sidewalk and street. A man walking his dog spotted it and contacted the police. Officer Farrell heard the call and responded because, he said, he is probably the only member of the Covington department who is familiar with reptiles and has no problem handling them.

        Animal Control Officer Debbie Brookes came and used a noose-like tool to hold the animal. But Officer Farrell said it was immedi ately apparent that the animal was quite docile and didn't resist being handled.

        Once off duty, Officer Farrell took the animal to the Newport Aquarium. “I knew they had alligators, so I figured that was the place to go,” he said.

        Not exactly. Aquarium biologists quickly identified the roaming reptile as a speckled caiman, a relative of the crocodile and native to Central and South Ameri ca. Unlike crocodiles and alligators, caiman aren't endangered and can be sold as pets.

        Spokeswoman Lisa Popyk said the aquarium can't keep the animal because it requires a different environment than the aquarium's 12 alligators in the “Gator Bayou” exhibit.

        The aquarium's lead life-support technician, Keith Flynn, has a lot of experience with crocodilians. He said he could keep the caiman until a proper home can be found, probably in some other facility.

        Officer Farrell said the caiman's owner has not been identified, though a woman did call the animal control office Tuesday afternoon demanding the return of her caiman.

        She was told that it was illegal under city statutes to keep crocodiles and it would not be returned. She hung up.



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