See You Later, Alligator!

You may recall that back in April, two of our crew members rescued a baby alligator that found its way onto the pre-treatment screens at our Kline’s Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The pint-sized reptile, which measures just a little over a foot long, has been relocated to its new home, Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Allenwood, PA.

Staff there named the alligator “Thanos,” after the Disney Avengers character, and treated it with antibiotics to clear up eye infections, said Katherine Allen, Reptiland’s Zoological Manager. Thanos will remain in quarantine until all signs of infection are clear, she said, and has been busy healing and eating in the meantime. The alligator has already grown from 119 to 140 grams (about half the weight of a can of soup), and has been snacking on small rodents and fish while basking under an ultraviolet light and a heat lamp, she said.

As Thanos grows, he’ll get a special pellet-type food called “croc chow” made especially for crocodilians. Male alligators can grow to 11-13 feet and weigh up to 600 pounds, and females 8-9 feet and 200-300 pounds.

Thanos certainly has some treatment plant superheroes—and luck—to thank for his rescue and new digs. He was spotted only because a forecast calling for a weekend of rain prompted plant workers to initiate wet weather protocols, which included a decision to activate a second climber screen. The screens clear solid objects from wastewater, such as wipes, plastics, diapers, and all kinds of other objects that should never be flushed or sent down the drain. 

That’s when workers spotted a tail sticking out of a clump of diapers, fats, and other waste. “It was only because of that fateful decision to turn on the second climber that I found it,” said Chuck. “If we had not made that decision, I would not have gone into the climber area for hours and the animal would have surely perished.” 

LCA employees Chuck and Craig (shown holding Thanos) said they knew the “little guy” was a fighter because it made it through whatever journey it had been on, winding up at the plant. And if Thanos could talk, he’d surely repeat our mantra: Don’t flush anything that’s not human waste or toilet paper!

Gary Saunders Jr., LCA’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager, commented, “I’m proud of the way Chuck and Craig responded to save the life of this creature, not even realizing what it was. It was a morale boost to the team, and everyone is still talking about it. We know it will not be the last of the wildlife at the plant as we have some regular visitors, including ducks, geese, red foxes, hawks, bald eagles, groundhogs, and even a piebald deer. Our employees care about the environment, and I know our team will do the same the next time we find an animal in trouble.” 

Eventually Thanos will be introduced to places where the public can visit, along with three other adult alligators at Reptiland – Rocky, Adrienne, and Sirphas.  Reptiland first opened in 1964, and today houses more than more than 40 species in recreated natural habitats — including mambas, cobras, vipers, pythons, tortoises, lizards, frogs and more.

The zoo, which also features educational exhibits and interactive reptile shows, is open daily from 9-5 Memorial Day through Labor Day, and 10-5 after Labor Day.