Audubon Aquarium Holds Name-The-White-Gator Election

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans is holding a name-the-gator election for a rare white alligator that recently went on display, even though it was dubbed "Chompitoulas" in 2009.

         The 5-foot-long male replaces a 28-year-old white alligator named "Spots," which died Sept. 7.

         The new gator and its brother were displayed as Chompitoulas and Canal-igator at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service donated the pair as hatchlings in 2009. However, they outgrew the insectarium's small swamp exhibit.

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         Canal-igator is on loan at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Audubon Nature Institute spokeswoman Katie Smith said in an email.

         On Thursday, the aquarium said it will hold an election from Friday through Halloween to choose one of three names: Pirogue, Cocodril and Chompitoulas. Aquarium visitors can get paper ballots; there's also an online form.

         Chompitoulas is a play on Tchoupitoulas Street. Pirogues are flat-bottomed boats used on Louisiana's bayous. Cocodril is an old spelling of the Cajun French word for "alligator," Smith said.

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         The Cajun word is more often spelled "Cocodrie," which is also the name of an unincorporated village in Terrebonne Parish, the parish where this blue-eyed alligator was found in 2009 and Spot and 17 others in 1987.

         "Our alligator is young but has an old soul," Smith wrote.

         She said the contest was prompted by the response to Audubon Nature Institute's Facebook announcement of Spots' death. It drew nearly 2,000 comments, many with photos of the big white gator, she said.

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         "Since there was such a tremendous outpouring after the loss of Spots, we wanted to include the community in welcoming the new white alligator to the Aquarium," she said.

         The aquarium hasn't received a necropsy report on Spots, she said.

         The alligators are not albino but leucistic, with blue eyes and some dark spots. In the wild, the babies would be targets for predators and subject to sunburn.

         – by AP Reporter Janet McConnaughey

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