You can't help but watch the two Aquarists and have some flashbacks of Steve Irwin's crew back at the Australian Zoo. To think that we have people of similar abilities in our own backyard is impressive.
I'm definitely going to have to make it a point to show up at the aquarium on a Sunday to observe the feeding/caring of the alligators. If you watch the video, you'll probably feel the same.
FORT FISHER, (WECT) - There's a new teaching program at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, but this program isn't for the public.
Instead, the program teaches some of the scariest residents how to behave.
With an average weight of nearly 500 pounds and deadly jaws capable of snapping bones in half, it makes sense that the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher keeps there alligators under lock and key.
Julie Johnson and Kari Ysland are responsible for keeping the alligator display clean, cared for, and running, which wasn't too difficult to do when the gators were small.
"As you can see they're getting to a fairly large size, so they're not scared of us any more," said Johnson. "We use to get in, and basically have a barrier between us and them, and if the gator got to close we'd nudge them away."
Now, for the past six months, the crew has used a candy striped section of PVC pipe as a target to get the gators to go where they want.
"Instead of using intimidation to get them to move away from us we can get them to willingly move by going over to someone that gives them a reward by doing so," said Johnson.
As a reward the gators are given a pellet which is a supplement to the alligator's diet of chicken, beef, and fish.
While the prospect of hand feeding alligators may seem frightening for some, for Kari and Julie it's just another day in the office.
"I just have a passion for animals," said Johnson. "I enjoy them. The behavior training is great to kind of play off an animals natural instinct, aid what it's already doing, and it's a lot of fun coming to work every day."
There have been no injuries or incidents for the employees or alligators since the program began.
You can watch the alligators be fed at the aquarium on Sundays.
Photo Credit: Screenshots from the WECT news video.