Source: The Ballarat Courier
THE Ballarat Wildlife Park is at a loss to explain how its star attraction died during the week.
Gator, the 300-kilogram saltwater crocodile which has entertained locals and tourists alike for almost 40 years, died on Tuesday after succumbing to a mystery illness.
Park owner Greg Parker said the family was devastated and still in a state of shock.
“I have raised Gator since he was a hatchling. He is like a member of the family,” Mr Parker said.
“We are still waiting on pathology results, so we are uncertain as to the reason for his passing.”
Work had already started on a $550,000 state-of-the-art crocodile enclosure at the park, due to open in August, which was to be the new home of the four-metre reptile.
“It is so sad that he won’t be here to enjoy it,” Mr Parker said.
“It has been designed specifically for his needs and is something we at the park have strived to do for so many years.”
Mr Parker said the attraction of a mature crocodile was important and that the park would source another crocodile in the coming months.
Tributes started pouring in yesterday for the crowd favourite, which had wowed royals, movie stars and the general public alike.
Ballarat Regional Tourism director George Sossi said Gator had been an institution in Ballarat over the years.
“The passing of the crocodile is sad, but we’ll be supporting (managing director) Greg (Parker) and the team with their plans to expand the enclosure,” he said.
Mr Sossi said the loss of Gator had come as a shock to the city.
“He was almost an institution in Ballarat. You can’t replace him, of course, but they’ve still got plans to move forward and we’ll be supporting them with that,” he said.
Mr Parker said the park had been assured by their veterinarian that Gator’s death was not caused by a transmittable disease and that all other crocodilians at the park had been given a clean bill of health.
Saltwater crocodiles can live well into their 70s and 80s, with most scientists saying 80 years would be the maximum age.
The park will consider putting in a memorial to Gator within the new enclosure and welcomes suggestions from any of the park’s friends.
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