White alligator awes zoo visitors

Carrie Beletz took a step forward as a 4½-foot white alligator approached her through mucky water. But this sixth-grader was not afraid.Instead, Carrie, a student at Sahuaro Elementary School in Phoenix, pressed her face to the glass at Wildlife World Zoo to get a better look at a creature she had never seen before."That's cool," she said. "But I wouldn't want to feed it."The rare white alligator is Arizona's first and is on display at the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park until May 1. Only a handful of white alligators exist in the world and are usually found throughout the Southeastern United States. White alligators are albino, meaning they lack normal pigmentation. Their lack of coloration prevents them from camouflaging themselves in the wild, often creating challenges for survival, said Wildlife World Zoo founder and director Mickey Ollson.

Forty-five percent of the zoo's attendees are repeat visitors, keeping the staff on their toes to find their latest exhibit, Ollson said."We try each year to get something new and different at the zoo," Ollson said. "It's the world's rarest reptile and I think people are just amazed by it."Carrie and the rest of her class certainly were amazed, as they rushed over to the female alligator's makeshift habitat and expressed surprise."I think it's cool how they have one," Carrie said. "I'll go to zoos and stuff, but I've never seen one that's white. I didn't even know that white alligators exist."

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