Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Alligator to be on Display at ENMU
PORTALES — A new display in the Natural History Museum at Eastern NewMexico University will hold the newest addition to the Natural HistoryMuseum, Caiman crocodylus, a South American alligatorid.
"Thisis a reptile that belongs to the same family as the North Americanalligator," says Dr. Marv Lutnesky, museum director. "It was living ina Lubbock garage, and a former student of mine obtained it from afamily there that could no longer keep it."
Forthe last year the creature has been living in a tank in an enclosedarea in the back of the Science Building, where it is being fed byScience Technician Huie Brown.
"Ifeed the Caiman two or three times a week, rotating between stew pork,stew beef, fish and sometimes chicken," says Brown. "I think it likesfish best. It eats about 1/2 pound per feeding right now. We also giveit calcium supplements."
The little critter has grown from 3 to 3 1/2 feet during its year at Eastern.
Accordingto Lutnesky, the species can grow to over eight feet for males and sixfeet for females. Because of its aggressive nature, the sex of ENMU'spet has not yet been determined, but will be after it is moved into itsdisplay case - which will tentatively be after a tropical mural ispainted inside.
A big attraction ofthe Natural History Museum used to be "Rover," the huge python snake.Since it was donated to the zoo in Clovis, Lutnesky feels that therehas been a void. "We needed a 'gee-whiz' attraction to keep the kidsexcited about coming to our museum," he says. "Hopefully, this willaccomplish that. We will also hold a 'Name the Caiman' contest thisfall."
JamesChacon, Mike Nuckols and Dan Robinson of the Physical Plant wereinvolved with the new state-of-the-art display. Robinson did the actualshop drawings for its design and built it. Made of walnut and oak, theheight of the display runs from floor to ceiling, although the habitatfor the reptile is raised two feet six inches off the ground in orderto fit pumps and various electrical devices underneath. Made of walnutand oak, the height of the display runs from floor to ceiling, althoughthe habitat for the reptile is raised two feet six inches off theground in order to fit pumps and various electrical devices underneath.
Theinterior dimensions of the display area are 16.5 feet long by 9.5 feetdeep in roughly a triangular shape, according to Brown. Thecustom-built pond is roughly kidney shaped with maximum dimensions of10 feet by 5 feet and 18 inches deep. The pond is sloped at one end sothe Caiman can climb out of it with ease.
Thepond holds approximately 600 gallons of water. "We have two filtersthat will filter and heat the water to around 30 degrees Celsius orabout 86 degrees Fahrenheit," says Brown.
Thenewest addition to the Eastern family will spend the bulk of his timeinside the pond, which is surrounded by stucco and concrete. "Therewere a lot of special considerations in building this display," saysChacon. "The case is massive, and had to be custom made to fit thespace. It was a big job."
It alsohad to be made with very strong material. Because the Caiman is soaggressive, the doors on either side of the case that are used forcleaning and feeding had to be reinforced. Other special considerationsincluded ventilation at the top of the case, as well as steps on thefront and side of the case so small children can get a proper view ofthe Caiman.
Chacon says thatbecause of the size of the job, it had to be done in stages. After theold display was torn out, and new measurements for the displaydetermined, the case was built in the shop in three separate, verylarge pieces, brought to the museum and put together there.