The film’The Waterboy’, a teacher asked:”Why are alligators so competitive?”
The waterboy responded:”Momma tells me alligators are ornery because they have all those teeth but no toothbrush!”
Nigel Marven, the wild life specialist, was not pleased with what his mother told him about alligators. He spent a year in Southern Florida in 2002 studying their ways and making films about them.
A collection of his adventures on film are called’Nigel Marven’s Alligator Adventure’. Nigel, back in England, had noticed an ad that read:
“Wanted! Alligator Wrestler. Must Be Brave and a Risk Taker!!!
The advertisement described Nigel exactly. Alligator wrestlers were needed because Southern Florida was in its second year of drought. Nigel commented:
“One and a half million alligators are getting desperate and have started coming into town in search of water causing big problems. That’s where my particular mission will come in – coping with nuisance alligators.”
Nigel realized that some sort of training would help him to survive and to succeed in his job. He decided to train with an experienced alligator wrestler, a Miccosukee Indian, known as Kenny.
The Miccosukee have lived and hunted alligators in this region for centuries.
An alligator’s jaws have a crushing power of 3000lbs per square inch. Their teeth are not as sharp as crocodiles so that they do not chew their prey. They thrash their victims around until body parts are ripped off and can be swallowed whole.
Another difference is that crocodile snouts are pointed and narrow whereas alligator snouts are broad and round.
Kenny waved his hat before the eyes of a ten foot alligator to get it to open its mouth. He tapped over its snout several times with his hands
He then put his hands close to its mouth. When it snapped its jaws closed and then opened them, he moved in fast and closed its jaws with his left hands beneath and his right palm on top. He gripped its jaws with his thumbs on top and his fingers underneath.
He moved closer bending the alligator’s neck back with his left knee. He then moved anticlockwise round the left side of the alligator stepping first with his right leg, holding its jaws shut with his left hand alone until he could sit on its back pulling its head back with both hands.
It was Nigel’s turn next. He had a go at a five foot alligator. What it lacked in size, it would make up for in speed. He approached it from the back. It took him some time to get his courage up for his first move.
Then he proceeded in fast squatting on its back just behind its front legs and covering its eyes with his left hand which also slammed its head towards the ground. This shut its mouth so Nigel could grab its jaws with his thumbs on top of its top jaw and his fingers beneath the lower jaw.
To tie up its jaws he would have to bend its neck back until the alligator’s closed snout could be held in a clamped position under his own chin! The alligator didn’t enjoy this experience:
“I will hear that hissing. It is going throughout my body.”
He got off by putting down its head and then moving quickly away from its jaws.
Nigel decided he had learned enough grappling techniques and headed off to see the creatures from the wild. He was, after all, a crazy life scientist in addition to an alligator wrestler!
That day he travelled to a small pool packed with alligators. He could see orange red eyes and feel the tension in the air. It would have been suicide to try and swim in this pool so that he punted his way in.
1 alligator came right up along with his ship:
“They’re curious about anything new and it is clear they are really hungry.
This is magical. You may see them gliding through the water. Some are hunting.
“They’ve eaten all of the turtles and the fish and all there is left is each other. The smaller alligators try to keep out of the way of the larger ones by sticking to the shallows but sometimes there is no escape.”
One huge alligator attacked a teenager alligator:
“It is shaking it like a dog shaking a rat. They can’t chew. They can only grip so that they thrash and crash until they dismember the bodies of large prey.”
Later in daytime, Nigel moved close in the shallows to a large alligator and began tapping it on top of its nostrils until it opened its mouth wide. It clearly enjoyed using its snout rubbed.
Nigel place one hand in its mouth to point out the stubs of teeth that the alligator grips with. He was at the same time talking to and looking at the camera!
He then put his head in its mouth to give viewers a closer look in the throat! A camera was attached to his forehead. An alligator has no lips to seal its mouth so it’s a false palate that seals its neck instead.
Nigel was determined to show a close up of the awesome design feature. He moved his head further and further in. Unexpectedly, the alligator lost patience and snapped its jaws twice.
Nigel narrowly escaped without losing his head or his arm not to mention the camera!
“Wow! Wow! I had to be fast there, didn’t I really? Pheaw! That nearly spoiled my weekend!”
Alligators can’t survive for long outside water so, in times of drought, they produce their own ponds or’swimming pools’. They push sand back with their front legs and then sweep it away with their rear legs and tails. These pools assist other species to survive as well.
Nigel decided to research a pool’owned’ by a large female alligator. He entered the pool while the alligator was recharging her energies in the side of the pool in the sun. He estimated this would take about half an hour.
He was able to unearth a salamander and an aggressively vicious snapping turtle that was just too eager to attack both him and the cameraman! Its jaws are designed for cutting rather than grinding. A bite could snip off a finger or thumb.
Throughout the program, Nigel was full of enthusiasm. He was delighted to discover some of the most horrendous looking creatures that most people would pay good money to avoid.
He only just escaped the pool prior to the’proprietor’ reached him.
His next’adventure’ was to swim with enormous bull alligators and female alligators during their mating rituals. He was told by an expert to maintain at least twenty five feet away from the bulls, to keep low in the water and to splash water towards an alligator when it moved towards him.
He ignored some of this advice and got within six feet of a enormous bull alligator. The bulls lift their heads and tails high from the water and bellow as part of the courting ritual.
They vibrate so much with the sound of the bellow and a deeper sound below the level of human hearing, that the water’dances’ in the air above their backs.
Female alligators bellow too but in a greater more ladylike pitch. The water does not dance on their backs.
Nigel entered the water, as intended, to get nearer to the beaches and sounds of this magical scene.
He was so absorbed in watching the amazing mating ritual of a single bull that he failed to notice an alligator stalking him. Fortunately, he turned and watched it in time. The water was shallow and this helped him get out unscathed.
During mating the female is submerged underneath and if the pair gets carried away she might even drown. Typically, however, her eggs are fertilized and she lays them within a couple of weeks and then after a couple of months the small alligators emerge.
Nigel next swam with some manatees. These tranquil mammals can be fifteen feet long and weigh 3000 pounds – as much as a car or a rhinoceros.
They consume a hundred pounds of green things per day and have 150 foot long intestines to process all the plants they consume.
They are so large that they don’t have to fear the alligators. They usually come up to breathe every four minutes or so but can remain submerged for over sixteen minutes.
At one point an American crocodile combined the swimming party. There are only about 500 American crocodiles abandoned – all in Florida. Nigel’s reaction was typical:
In the next’adventure’, Nigel drew away a eight foot mom alligator from her hatching eggs so he could get close enough to do some research.
As he came close, she turned and snapped at him with stunning speed. Maybe she was just snapping her jaws together to frighten him away.
He encouraged her to come towards him once more and triggered some tree roots on his left. Fortunately, he kept on his feet and survived yet again!
“Cor! That snap really got my heart beating. If they run at you they could run at twelve miles an hour. I need to be able to out run her. Wow! Come on, Mum! Wow!” Each time Nigel said’Wow!’ The alligator came at him.
Finally, Nigel lay low and close on the ground watching entranced as she helped the baby alligators to hatch by rolling the eggs around in her mouth:
“Astounding animal behaviour – this is what I live for. The baby alligators walk towards their mum. They know that she is the best way to get to the water.”
When she went off to take one of two of her babies to the water, he examined the others to find out what sex they were. Their gender is determined by the temperature they are incubated at:
“That is ridiculous! These are reptiles but I feel like a proud father. This is the first day of these little hatchling lives. They could live to fifty.”
Nigel also found some baby turtles at the alligator nest.
Alligator hatchlings stay together as a family for two or three years but just a few will make it to adulthood.
From day one they catch food for themselves but they’re also hunted by predators like otters. The Mother alligator can’t be everywhere at once especially when she’s about forty baby alligators to protect.
There’s 1 alligator for every ten people in Florida. They can be tempted by different kinds of food like dogs. They take about a hundred a year but it isn’t just pets that are in jeopardy. Alligators can turn up anywhere. Fortunately attacks on humans are extremely rare.
Nigel met two year old Edna Wilkes and her friend Amanda. They were swimming at night in a lake when Edna was attacked by an alligator. She had never seen alligators in that lake before and wasn’t scared about swimming there.
She thought her friend Mark was squeezing her arm and said:”Mark! Quit playing around!” Then she saw a snout. Her arm was in the alligator’s jaws.
She was dragged underwater before she had a chance to scream along with the alligator started to spin. Alligators drown their prey and spin to rip off chunks of flesh.
Her friend couldn’t’bear to see her die’ and handed her a plank that Edna got her upper body onto. Edna used her free right arm to try to open the alligator’s mouth and to ‘mess’ with him:
“I guess I chased him and he let me go!”
It was time for Nigel to put his knowledge and skills to the test.
A nuisance alligator had been seen in a swimming pool. It was big and on the bottom of the pool. Nigel would have to swim underwater to catch it with his bare hands.
He was, unsurprisingly, nervous. He asked for advice from Joe, an expert friend.
Cover the eyes and be sure that the mouth is closed before grabbing its snout. If needed, push its head to the bottom of the pool to shut its mouth.”
Nigel’s swam up behind the alligator along its rear His first attempt to catch its closed snout failed and he came up gasping for air. On the next attempt:
Third time lucky – he swam over the alligator and grabbed the snout with the jaws closed with his left hand. He brought the alligator in near the steps to the pool. His friend Joe helped him tape the mouth shut and then lift it from the pool
As usual, Nigel saw the positives of this terrifying experience:
“This bloke gave me a beautiful ride in the swimming pool”
Florida laws stated that a nuisance alligator over four feet long should be killed but Nigel made certain this one was released into an Everglades sanctuary where it could live on for many years to come. He commented:
“I just hope the people in Florida never lose patience with their ancient neighbours. I’ve enjoyed my alligator adventure so much.”
My step brother emailed me this poem that indicates that alligators are not necessarily the guilty party when it comes to attacks on human beings! It is known as’The Purist’ by Ogden Nash:
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, “He never bungles!”
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
Professor Twist couldn’t but smile.
“You mean,” he said,”a crocodile.”
Several success and survival tips may be heard from Nigel’s’adventures’.
Get training from the best in the business. Nigel sought advice from at least three experts. He also applied their guidance although not all of it.
Maintain your enthusiasm for what you are doing even when you make mistakes. Nigel did not give up in the swimming pool.
Nigel had bathed at home in his bath with youthful caymans from an early age. He later swam with alligators. He loved finding out about animals and reptiles.
Keep your childhood curiosity and sense of wonder so that you may enjoy your adventures on this awesome planet.
Chrissy Ogden wrote:’Keeping in touch with childhood memories keeps us believing in life’s simplest pleasures like a rainy afternoon, a swing set, and a giant puddle to play in.’ All through the movie Nigel was playing in giant puddles.
Knowledge and fascination can diminish fear and panic. Nigel’s mind was so filled with his curiosity about the animals he met up with it did not have space for a lot of fear. Keep learning new things and your life will be less anxious and less fearful.
Do not give up even in the event you believe your life is in the grip of an’alligator’ like debt or illness.
Be willing to take risks although I would not suggest taking Nigel as your role model. I just checked on the world wide web to determine if he is still alive. He i