May 04, 2023, 06:28AM

Gator Aid

As nature disappears, urban myths become reality.

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There are no thriving communities of alligators living in the sewers of New York City; it’s a common urban legend that persists. Since 1935, when The New York Times reported some boys in the Bronx killed a large alligator with shovels, rumors continued that “there’s something down there.” The animal might’ve been a comic book ad-purchased pet or a memento from Florida. It’s illegal to buy, sell or own alligators in New York State without a permit. Let’s have a little respect for these ancient dinosaurs.

However, if your fear is stoked by unsavory underground living conditions; a better entertainment offering would be movies like C.H.U.D. (which stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) or Escape from New York. Reptiles don’t stand a chance in a sewer system; where the toxic cold water has pathogens and reptiles need 78–90-degree temperatures or else.

A disturbing case in Brooklyn: someone discarded a four-foot alligator in Prospect Park Lake last winter in February. After several months of rehabilitation at the Bronx Zoo, the malnourished animal named Godzilla by the rescuers, died. This creature grew up in a tub and had ingested a rubber stopper, as revealed by x-rays. Another instant animal celebrity gone.

It paid off being careful opening doors in Philadelphia. What a surprise when a divorce settlement exposed the beast known as Big Mack. An eight-foot long, 127-pound hissing gator practicing its strong bite was kept hidden in a locked basement den. It took several animal-control officers to secure him before being transferred away: off to a sanctuary in Jupiter, Florida.

The Mack wasn’t the only gator in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth has extended a warm welcome to Wally who goes for walks. Alligator expert and owner Joie Henney said Wally’s an emotional-support animal who comforts those in senior centers, has multiple social media accounts, and puts a smile on people’s faces. They have a special relationship. Can’t argue with that, but it’s risky. We know keeping alligators and other exotic animals as pets doesn’t play a practical role in our society. But people do it anyway.

With the exception of squirrels, pigeons and rats, it’s getting difficult to picture wild animals surviving in today’s cruel city and rural conditions. As kids growing up, we’d spot a rare humble turtle making a summer jaunt across a Baltimore lawn. “Can we keep it?” we wondered. Parents didn’t approve. We tried to conceal its presence in a medium-sized brown cardboard box lined with iceberg lettuce leaves.

A big “Eww!” when we picked up the turtle; it immediately urinated on us. Everyone laughed. Without further ado, it slid its head back into its shell, where it remained for the rest of the afternoon. We sat there pondering whether we’d brought it bad luck The animal was declared unfit to keep as a pet and released back into nature. Before retreating, the Eastern box turtle poked his head out band and scurried off. Disappointed and curiosity satisfied, the endeavor was completed before five p.m. so that everyone could return home for dinner.

As worldwide conservation efforts increase, there are those who’ve gone above and beyond the norm. Now that environmental concerns are a contentious issue, radical climate activists damage museum artwork. According to news reports, paint was recently used to vandalize an Edgar Degas sculpture in Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art. The fading boundary separating ideologies is now intertwined with politics and business. A no-nonsense approach to dealing with difficult climate concerns involves thoughtful responsibility and fundamental good manners.

A noisy blue jay announced his entrance. He swooped down and landed in a birdbath. Displaying marauding behavior, he drives the other birds away. Our feathered friend appears distracted splashing around, maybe on the lookout out for a stray cat or hawk. Another possible reason for the unease: urbanization, a nearby forest habitat is being cleared away; a fragile ecosystem disappears.

Construction has begun on another unsightly prefab housing complex. Despite the benefits of having a small carbon footprint, home developments made of inexpensive materials, plywood and cinder block have drawbacks. In the interim, news organizations eagerly anticipate the next tornado, preparing to deploy their drones to document storm damage. Anyone objecting to this kind of development? Perhaps the futuristic “El Cosmico” 3D printed architecture structure project in Marfa, Texas, holds the key.


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