NEW YORK (AP) — The alligator that was rescued from a chilly lake in New York City over the weekend had swallowed a bathtub stopper, authorities said.
The nearly 5-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) female alligator was lethargic and suffering from exposure to the cold when it was found in Brooklyn's Prospect Park Lake on Sunday, according to a spokesperson for the Bronx Zoo, where the gator is recovering.
After being spotted by a park maintenance worker Sunday morning, the alligator was pulled from the lake and taken to Animal Care Centers of New York City before it was brought to the Bronx Zoo.
Zoo officials said in a news release that the rescued alligator is too weak to eat on its own and is being tube-fed. At 15 pounds (6.8 kilos), the alligator is extremely emaciated, as an alligator of its length should weigh 30 to 35 pounds (13.6 to 15.9 kilos), they said.
X-Rays show that the alligator, estimated to be 5 to 6 years old, had ingested a 4-inch (10-centimeter) bathtub stopper, zoo officials said, noting that the animal is too weak for veterinarians to try to remove it.
It is illegal to have an alligator in New York state, but it is not uncommon for people to buy young alligators and then abandon them. A baby alligator was found in a swimming pool in suburban Bayport in 2019.
Animal Care Centers spokesperson Katy Hansen said the organization has taken in six American alligators since 2018.
Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny called the alligator found Sunday a sad example of the exotic pet trade. “People need to think before they acquire exotic animals,” Breheny said. “Everyone needs to know and realize that wild animals don’t make good pets.”
Breheny said leaving the alligator in a lake in Brooklyn in the wintertime "was an irresponsible act and certainly not in the animal’s best interest.”