An alligator died at the Oklahoma City zoo last month. What they found as the cause of death is disturbing, litter. There were seven plastic bottles blocking his stomach. The alligator was unable to digest his food and ended up with an infection.
After the alligator’s death they checked the other alligator’s stomachs found more plastic bottles, a plastic alligator toy, bottle caps, coins and even a shoe!
Some of the litter blows in but some is thrown in. People throw coins in the water to make wishes and also use the alligators open mouths as targets.
A vet was able to pull out smaller items like coins but they are still trying to find a way to get the larger items out without surgery.
Sadly it’s not only the alligators being hurt by the carelessness of people. A seal died at the zoo in 2007 from metal poisoning. 92 coins were found in the seals stomach. The seals see the coins shining in the water and think they are fish.
The seals and sea lions are now being x-rayed twice a year to have the coins removed. They can’t do the same with the alligators as their skin is made of scales that contain bones making it impossible to x-ray them. To check the alligators stomachs an arthroscopic camera must be used. But since the alligators have to be anesthetized for the procedure it’s not ideal to have to do it a few times a year.
The zoo is working to add nets to the alligator’s exhibit to keep the debris away from the alligators. They also are working to educate the public about this matter.
This is a lesson for us all. Litter is not only unsightly but it can kill as well.