Riverbanks showing rare white alligator - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Riverbanks showing rare white alligator

(Columbia) July 11, 2006 - If you plan on visiting Riverbanks Zoo, you're likely to run into an unusual sight. A rare white alligator is on display.

Besides being white, the leucistic alligator has all the same characteristics as other gators.

They are often confused with albino alligators. However, leucistic alligators actually have white skin as opposed to lack of pigment. They also have normal colored eyes and aren't sensitive to light.

Only 10 other white alligators are known in captivity, all owned by the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.

Riverbanks got the rare gator after Natural Resources Department agents seized three of the animals when three men were arrested in 2003 for taking the endangered species from the banks of a pond on Hilton Head Island. The other two gators died from an infection suffered before they were taken to the zoo.

White alligators are very unusual in the wild. Most alligators are dark to hide the young from predators in their naturally dark habitat.

The men said they captured the gators to keep them from being killed. They are awaiting trial.

The gator is a rare sight that zoo officials hope will fascinate visitors. Zoo employee Scott Pfaff says, "Well, once they're exposed to people, their temperament's fine. They're still a wild animal and when he grows up he's potentially going to be a dangerous animal. But actually, crocodilians are fairly smart and respond to the keeper staff. The keepers are training the animals, so he responds to commands, and we'll be doing some of that on exhibit once he goes out."

The zoo is open from 9:00am until 5:00pm during the week and until 6:00pm on weekends.     

Updated 8:50am by Chantelle Janelle with AP

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