Desert Gators Building Habitat for Alligators

The Desert Gators, the Arizona alumni chapter of the University of Florida, will spend two days March 18 and 19 building new habitat for the local living representatives of their mascot, the gators in the desert in the North Scottsdale sanctuary operated by the Phoenix Herpetological Society (PHS).

Several dozen UF alumni, who more frequently gather to clamorously cheer their athletic teams to victory, will be using muscles instead of their mouths for this project. The weekend's agenda involves construction of new alligator pools and iguana pens, as well as repainting and repairing the sanctuary's existing fences and structures.

The PHS sanctuary currently house hundreds of reptiles ranging from tiny exotic lizards to Amos, a 400-pound bull gator who likes his chicken hand-tossed to him. The collection includes a variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes, water monitors, lizards, crocodiles, alligators and desert tortoises.

Many of the reptiles in PHS custody have been confiscated by law enforcement authorities from people who possessed them illegally and are being held pending disposition of legal action. Others, frequently of unknown origin, have been rescued in the desert after apparent abandonment by former owners. Some have been bred at the sanctuary.

"But all of the PHS reptiles are growing out of their existing facilities," says Gary Manton, president of the UF Desert Gator alumni. "We know they need help, and who better to help gators than Gators?"

The "habitat for reptility" construction weekend is only the latest in a series of activities on the part of the UF Desert Gator alumni to help their "cousins" at PHS. Previous activities have included fundraising and food drives. More than 900 pounds of chicken to feed the gators were donated last year by the alumni, who also held a silent auction that raised more than $5,000 to support PHS operations.

Anyone who wants to join with the Desert Gators to help build new habitat for the PHS reptiles should contact Manton at (602) 740-4626.

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