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Australian Zookeepers Undertake Dangerous Alligator Health Checks Ahead of Winter

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Zookeepers in Australia undertook the dangerous task of performing a health check on their resident alligators ahead of the winter months.

This footage, filmed by the Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales, shows keepers working together to wrangle the animals in order to examine them safely.

According to the zoo, “during the winter months, the alligators enter a state of brumation where their metabolism begins to slow down, their activity decreases, and they cease feeding due to the low water temperatures”.

“Performing a health check on a massive adult alligator is no simple task. The process involves keepers wrangling the alligator and restraining them as they check their muscular condition, dental health and overall physical condition. There were a few close calls, but happy to report all alligators and keepers made it through the process safely!” Head Reptile Keeper at the Australian Reptile Park Jake Meney said. Credit: Australian Reptile Park via Storyful

Video transcript

JAKE MENEY: The weather is starting to cool down, and soon our alligators will go into brumation for the winter. Before that happens, we're going to do a bit of a health check on our population of American alligators here at the Australian Reptile Park. Doing a dental check on an American alligator is no simple task, so we've got the entire team out here this afternoon.

First up, we've got one of the oldest males here at the park. For an old boy still got a fair bit of fight in him. This alligator here would perhaps be 70 or 80 years of age. So we're just checking the teeth. You can see these teeth are little yellow, but not unusual for an alligator, particularly one of this boy's age.

So this is the front foot, which we'll inspect. You can see a bit of wearing here, but it seems to have hardened over. Look at the size of that compared to my hand.

[GRUNTING]

Next up is one of our females. Now she's a lot smaller than a male, but she's a lot quicker and a lot more feisty. Hissing away. So on top of checking the large males, we're also making sure to check on some of these smaller females. This was actually a female that laid a clutch of eggs back in January, and she's put on nice weight, but going into winter we want to make sure that she's in good Nick.

So this next male is not the largest male in the lagoon, but he's certainly known for throwing his weight around a bit. Now, he does have an old injury on his tail, so you want to remove him from the water to take a close look at that. So watch this girl in front of me.

So we've roped this male in the water, but he's being really stubborn and he's really heavy. He's dug his back feet in. He's not moving, so I'm going to have to get in there behind him and give him a little push up the bank. I'm not going to allow any room for error. One, two, three.

[HISSING]

Yeah, I think that tail looks really good. All right. Three.

Overall, this health check was really positive. Everyone looks in really great condition heading into winter. Now we don't feed our American alligators over winter. The water temperature drops too low for them to digest food. So we'll start feeding the alligators again once it warms up in September or October.

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