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June 11, 2014 06:10 PM

Albino Alligators Visit Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, SD

The Great Plains Zoo has animals from all over the world, including some very unique species. This summer, they are hosting a few rare alligators that are already turning heads.

Usually, alligators at the Great Plains Zoo are kept outdoors with plenty of sunshine, but these guys prefer a little more shade.

"Being Albino, they lack certain skin pigments. So that makes them more sensitive to sunburn, so we have them in the enclosure here to keep them a little bit more protected," Director of Animal Programs at the Great Plains Zoo Lisa Smith said. 

Albino Alligators are extremely rare, with only about 30 in the world. These two are spending their summer in Sioux Falls, on loan from Florida.

"We work with zoos all across the country to loan animals, trade animals, get great exhibit animals. Even on a traveling basis like we have for this summer," Great Plains Zoo President and CEO Elizabeth Whealy said. 

While they may look menacing, with their bright skin and red eyes, these little guys are still considered small.

"At five and six feet long, they're not considered full grown. These guys can get between 10 and 15 feet long as adults," Smith said. 

And full grown, these reptiles can weigh between 400 to 600 pounds. Unlike other animals, these fair skinned beasts do better in captivity than out in the wild.

"Being Albinos, they probably wouldn't make it very long because they would stick out. But here, we can keep them for a very long time. American Alligators can live to be between 30 and 50 years old," Smith said. 

But they won't be in Sioux Falls very long. The Albino Alligators will be heading home after Labor Day, so you have just a few months to catch a glimpse.

"Kids love them. We've already heard lots of, 'Oohs and ahs,' from our visitors. And we know that having these very special animals is really cool for our guests," Whealy said.

Zookeepers say even though they aren't fully grown, they can still be dangerous. So they are fed from a distance and handled with caution.  KELOLAND News Chief Photographer Kevin Kjergaard got to see meal time up close.  Watch it in the video player below.

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