By Grainger Editorial Staff 7/20/20
Meet Travis Slater, Animal Handler at the Everglades Animal Farm, who says he doesn’t have a job, but a paid hobby. Get an inside look at how Travis care for hundreds of alligators, as well as crocodiles, snakes, tortoises, iguanas, birds, and even a panther.
I came here from another airboat company, but I was mainly an [airboat] driver. An opportunity [came up] here so I'm strictly [taking care of the] animals. My name's Travis [Slater], and I am the animal handler here [at the Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead, Florida].
I’m the show guy, [my role] is assistant curator [so I take] care of the animals. That's pretty much my job title, but [my day-to-day job] does vary. [There are] a lot of other things [I do] around here as well.
I believe [the Alligator Farm opened in the] early '80s. It started out with a guy digging out a hole and adding a few alligators to it. It was more like a salvage yard. This guy just liked alligators and then it just transformed into [a farm] over the decades. We've got crocodiles [here] and a panther over there. We also have quite a few snakes on exhibit, some iguanas and some tortoises in the back.
On a typical day I get here and do a walk around to make sure [none of the animals escaped]. If [one did escape], I have to put it back [in its pen]. It doesn't happen very often, but it does occasionally happen [even though the alligators] can't climb. [I prepare] to do shows and get the snakes ready. I do my first show starting at 10 o'clock. The second show is at 11 o’clock [featuring] the alligators. I take care of animals at our exhibit throughout the day. [If a pen] needs to be cleaned or [an animal] fed, I’m going to go ahead and take care of it.
We have some grow-up pens where the hatchlings go. [We put] wire over [the pen] so birds and other predators can't get to [the hatchlings]. Once they’ve reached a certain size, we move them [to another pen]. Once they get too big for the grow up pens, they'll actually be moved to the juvenile pen back there. Once they outgrow [the juvenile pen], they go in [the pen] with the big boys.
About every two to three weeks, we [go through] roughly one thousand to fifteen hundred pounds of meat right there on the beach and the breeding pond. Whoever is really hungry is going to be right there [waiting]. It's like a big pile of meat, with an even larger pile of alligators on top of it.
This job is actually more like a paid hobby to me, [where I] get to educate the people. [I teach them] about the reptiles. I love working with the kids, just educating them. Working with the animals has been a dream of mine since I was little, it’s a dream come true. I don't have a job; I have a paid hobby. [There are] not a lot of people who can say that.
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