Alligator show makes first Cherry Blossom Festival visit

Telegraph correspondentMarch 16, 2012 

In the swamps south of Macon lives a predator with a bite capable of crushing bones. A holdover from the age of dinosaurs, the American alligator’s 2,000-pound bite force is one of the most powerful ever measured. Visitors to this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival will get a chance to safely learn more about the alligator and see its fierce jaws up close.

Kachunga and the Alligator Show will be making an inaugural appearance at this year’s festival with daily shows in Central City Park.

“We researched different educational entertainment shows ... and this was a different animal we’d not had before,” said Stacy Campbell, director of sales and marketing for the Cherry Blossom Festival. “They came very highly recommended.”

Kachunga started in 1982 as a way to educate students about local wildlife. It has evolved into an alligator show that mixes entertainment with information about the reptile.

“They teach the kids about the natural habitat of the alligator,” Campbell said. “It’s a very educational show about the animal.”

The gators appearing in the shows are not trained, said Teresa Ottofaro, who handles corporate promotions for Kachunga and the Alligator Show.

“There is no way to train an alligator,” Ottofaro said. “All we do is put them in situations to demonstrate their natural instincts, their natural behavior in the wild. ... They are just normal gators.”

American alligators can grow up to 800 pounds and about 11 feet long.

“We have two adult gators that we’ll bring,” Ottofaro said of Kachunga’s festival appearance. “Then we have two small gators that we travel with that are small enough to be held.”

One of the adult gators will appear at each show with Kachunga, the trainer, and also be on display between shows.

“After the show, we offer interaction with the smaller gators onstage,” Ottofaro said.

The Macon show also will feature an albino alligator, of which there are only about 100 in North America.

“It’s going to be a pretty rare experience for people who come to the show,” Campbell said.

Ottofaro said the show’s albino alligator came from one of the last known wild nests in Louisiana.

“It was the last set of eggs collected by scientists before (Hurricane) Katrina hit,” she said.

After the hurricane leveled parts of Louisiana, the gators didn’t return to this nesting site, Ottofaro said.

Alligators can be found across most of North America but are most concentrated in Florida and Louisiana. The Southeast is where you would most likely encounter one in the wild, Ottofaro said.

“We want people to understand if you run across one of these gators in the wild ... what do you do,” she said. “We want people to know these are protected.”

Kachunga and the Alligator Show

When: 2 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday-March 24; and noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. March 25

Where: Central City Park, downtown Marcon

Cost: Free

Information: www.cherryblossom.com

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