Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Zoo Park Map Spotlight: St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park

Today is our first Park Map Spotlight! Similar to the Brochure Spotlight feature, I will be displaying old park maps of zoos that I have collected over the years. Our first trip takes us to the Alligator Farm of St. Augustine, Florida. This park map is from the mid-nineties and according to Wikipedia: The park began in 1893 on St. Augustine Beach as a minor attraction at the end of a railway running through neighboring Anastasia Island. The alligators were added at first to get visitors to buy souvernirs and see the museum there. Soon, though, the reptiles themselves became the point of interest. Growing in popularity, the park moved to its current location in the early 1920s. The park changed owners in the 1930s, and after a devastating fire, they started reconstruction and expansion of the facilities.

The highlight of the trip to the Alligator Farm back then was Gomek, one of the largest crocodiles to ever be put on display. Gomek even has his very own Wikipedia page:

Gomek was a large Saltwater Crocodile captured by George Craig in Papua New Guinea. He was purchased by Terri and Arthur Jones in 1985 and was kept in Ocala, Florida for five years before being sold to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida. For 8 years he wowed spectators with both his amazing nutria-tossing abilities and his even more amazing tolerance of people. Feeders of the large croc were allowed to go into the enclosure and get as close as 1 meter from the large animal (a normally suicidal proximity) without any fear of attack. While feeders still used long tongs to feed Gomek, he was generally considered to be a "tame" crocodile and was the favorite of the Alligator farm and people around the nation.

After many years, Gomek died of heart disease on March 6, 1997. By then, he was a very old crocodile, and one of the largest and tamest captive crocodile in existence. When he died, he was 17 feet 8 inches (5.5 m) long, and weighed nearly 2,000 pounds - as confirmed by St. Augustine Alligator Farm - and probably between 80 and 90 years old. There is a tribute to Gomek in St. Augustine.

I’ll have to dig up some of my pictures of Gomek from our visit but for now enjoy this feeding video courtesy of YoutTube: