Luna the alligator (more on that name in a moment) cost $9,000, according to the aquarium’s director, Donna Moffett. The funds came from private donations through the N.C. Aquarium Society, the state-run aquariums’ private, non-profit support group.
The albino alligator came from the St. Augustine Animal Farm in Florida. Fewer than 50 albino alligators are known in the world, Moffett said, and most of these can be traced to a single nest in Louisiana, apparently tended by two alligator parents who both had the recessive gene for albinism, the lack of pigment in the eyes and skin. That nest was apparently destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and no albino alligators have been found in the United States since then, Moffett said.
The aquarium obtained the alligator in February 2009 and gave it a sneak preview in March. It officially went on display in its new habitat, in the aquarium’s conservatory, on May 29. A contest to name the alligator drew more than 1,500 responses (from as far away as Germany and Scotland); aquarium staff members eventually settled on Luna, from the Latin for “moon.”
Albino alligators cannot survive long in the wild. Luna’s quarters are carefully sheltered from direct sunlight, with no ultra-violet light that could damage her eyes. (The alligator is female.) The water is also warmed to a gator-friendly temperature. Moffett said Luna is eating heartily and appears to be thriving in her new home.
The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located at 900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach [Map this], off U.S. 421 south of the Fort Fisher State Historic Site. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Date posted: June 12, 2009