Anonim

So surreal they seem fake: these photos seem to be taken from a book of memories of a remote historical past. In fact, water has passed under the bridge - and not only in terms of awareness of animal rights - since the opening of California Alligator Farm, a sort of theme park for crocodile and alligator lovers inaugurated at Lincoln Height, a neighborhood of EastSide of Los Angeles, in 1907.

Born from an idea of ​​Francis Earnest and "Alligator" Joe Campbell, the park housed over a thousand specimens of reptiles imported and reproduced inside the structure: in addition to alligators and crocodiles typical of the American territory, even exotic species - such as the crocodile of the Nile (Crocodylus niloticus), a large African reptile - turtles, iguanas and snakes.

They ranged from newly hatched reptiles, to older and longer-lived specimens: the park's brochure boasted 500-year-old guests. Today we know that an American alligator lives on average 50 years.

The entrance to the park was experienced as naturally as we would today enter Disneyland. By paying a 25 cents dollar ticket, visitors could interact with the reptiles in various ways: they were allowed to enter the water with the most gentle, pick up the youngest, look at them at lunch time or while they were brought down from a sort of slide. We went to have picnics a few steps from the (trained) guests, or to make them play with the children.

The animals were not entirely free, but they could move into the park with a greater degree of freedom than they would have in today's zoo.

This possibility involved a certain degree of dispersion of reptiles. A period of heavy rain or flood could swell the rivers and drag the alligators out of the facility, to nearby properties, like Lincoln Park Lake. The reptiles could slip into some local canal, and find themselves in a lake in a park or in the pool at the back of neighboring houses.

The park was also a destination for young university students and members of confraternities, who sometimes decided, as an "initiation test", to remove one of the guests from the park. It could therefore happen that an alligator disappeared from the structure, whose level of surveillance was not so stringent.

The nightly vocalizations of the alligators, along with some unwanted incursions, provoked the complaints of the neighbors. In 1953, the park was moved to Buena Park, a small town in Orange County, also in California.

Some alligators of the park became so accustomed to human presence that they were hired as extras in numerous Hollywood films.

At the time of maximum popularity, the attraction received around 130, 000 tourists a year. In the 1950s, the flow of visitors began to decline, reaching less than 50 thousand visitors a year.

The park closed its doors in 1984, and the reptiles were sold to private individuals.

Today we would like to see reptiles roaming free in their natural habitat, and these old-fashioned photos almost make you smile, for the unusual scenes they bear witness to. But they should perhaps be observed with the approach that we would reserve for a curious historical relic.

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