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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Prehistoric beast thrills crowds

By April Wright
Variety Editor

Friday, October 13, 2006

It’s not everyday the average St. Olaf student gets to handle an American alligator. But working with 'gators and similar cold-blooded creatures is business as usual for handler Jaime Pastika.

Q: How long have you been doing this?

A: About 12 years.

Q: And how did you get interested in this field?

A: When I was five years old, I loved to go out and find garter snakes and frogs.

Q: Have you ever had anything really bad happen to you?

A: Let's see… I was bit by a Nile crocodile a few months ago. It's just the statistics…doing this, you get bit.

Q: What is your favorite reptile to work with?

A: Crocs.

Q: Why?

A: They're just incredibly primative animals. They lived with the dinosaurs.

Q: What are your hopes in doing these visits?

A: We intend to open a whole reptile zoo. We worked at Disney's Animal Kingdom and came back to Minnesota with the hope of opening a full-time zoo.

For those less familiar with the croc Pastika was holding, here are some stats:

– The reptile was an American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis. Alligators belong to the biological order Crocodillia, which has existed roughly 220 million years.

– Aged by Pastika at between three and five years of age, the alligator was about four feet long, including tail. It could grow to be about 10 feet long and weigh up to 1,200 pounds, with males growing larger than females. The one Pastika brought to St. Olaf will still roughly double its size.

– Alligators reach sexual maturity at eight to 13 years old.

– Distributed all along the southern coast of the United States, the American alligator was once endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. It was pronounced recovered in 1987.

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