Brooklyn alligator facing ‘long process’ as it continues its recovery at Bronx Zoo

Close up of an alligator face and eye in the wilderness of Florida
An alligator was found in poor condition upon being fished out of lake in Brooklyn by NYC Parks staff. The alligator is currently recovering at the Bronx Zoo.
Photo courtesy Getty Images

Sharks in the water may be a given in some places; alligators too. But in New York City, they’re not thought of as common, which is why it was such a shock when an alligator was found and saved from a lake in Brooklyn last month.

The now infamous female gator named Godzilla found a new, temporary home at the Bronx Zoo as it not only recovers from the cold as a result of its abandonment, but from a bathtub stopper it swallowed — it is unclear whether this happened before or after it arrived at the park. The city Parks Department, which oversaw Godzilla’s capture and transportation to the zoo, believes she was a domesticated pet who had been dumped by her owner.

Nearly 5 feet long, the alligator found in the lake at Prospect Park on Feb. 19 was extremely underweight, weighing a mere 15 pounds when an alligator of this size should typically weigh between 30 and 35 pounds, officials with the Bronx Zoo said.

Zoo officials said that radiographs of the alligator indicated that she is between 5 and 6 years of age.

Godzilla, the alligator found in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Pond on Feb. 19, 2023, remains in poor condition. Photo courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo

This is not the first alligator in the city to be salvaged from abandonment, as it turns out. According to The New York Times, “the city rescues several alligators a year,” oddly enough many of the rescued gators — not native to the area — have also been left by owners who no longer have interest in taking care of them once they’ve grown large enough.

The Parks Department also suspects that was the case with Godzilla — likely adopted as a baby and abandoned once the owner was overwhelmed by the animal’s growth.

Godzilla is the sixth city gator cared for by Animal Care Centers’ (ACC) in just the past five years, a spokesperson for the shelter group said.

Odd, stray animals are a more common occurrence in the city than many might expect. The New Yorker reported a slew of strange pets New Yorkers keep in their homes from peacocks and snakes to birds from the Amazon and water dragons. And 311 has a channel on their hotline for those who would like to report exotic, wild or illegal animals.

ACC spokesperson Katy Hansen said a total of 5,900 illegal pets in New York have come into ACC’s care in the past five years, one way or another.

They include 1,927 raccoons, 611 opossums, 355 squirrels, 100 skunks, 24 deer, 3 monkeys, a cow and a wallaby named Howie, among others.

The Bronx Zoo has also been known to take in some of these strays every now and again, assisting in the aid of abandoned creatures. Back in 2021, with the help of the Humane Society of the United States, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the New York City Police Department, the Bronx Zoo helped remove an 80-pound cougar that was just under one year old from an apartment in the Bronx. 

An x-ray image showing the tub stopper found inside Godzilla the alligator. Photo courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo

Kelly Donithan, director of animal disaster response for the Humane Society, noted the anomaly surrounding this and other terrible conditions in which cougars are rescued, saying  “I’ve never seen a cougar in the wild, but I’ve seen them on leashes, smashed into cages, and crying for their mothers when breeders rip them away.”

The Bronx zoo cared for this cougar for a weekend before transferring it to Turpentine Creek sanctuary in Arkansas where she remains to this day. As Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny emphasized at the time, “These animals often end up in very bad situations, kept by private individuals who don’t have the resources, facilities, knowledge, or expertise to provide for the animals’ most basic needs.” That is where the zoo comes in, willing and able to bear some of the brunt of helping these animals find the right place to heal and grow.

Further back then that, the zoo was responsible for taking care of a trio of grizzly bears whom it adopted after they were saved from abandonment in Montana. Treena, Amber and Luna were too young to survive on their own and have been happily living under the care of the Bronx Zoo since their transfer.

This time around, the alligator has been living at the Bronx Zoo as it continues to recover.

According to a representative of the zoo, “This is going to be a long process … She is still being tube-fed liquid nutrients to try to stabilize her and allow her to put on some weight. She is not strong enough at this point to endure any procedure.”

— Christian Murray and Ben Brachfeld contributed to this report

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