No greater gator than Reggie

first_imgAs the reptile relaxes in quarantine, Recchio and the other keepers will determine whether they can accommodate him. “With Reggie’s fame, I’d bet they’ll try to keep him,” said Jay Young, a wrestler and proprietor of Colorado Gators, an alligator rescue facility in Mosca, Colo., who briefly engaged in an earlier hunt. “They’d be silly not to – he’s the most famous alligator in the world, so they’ll probably try to find a way to set him up there. But if not, hey, we’d be happy to take him.” With Ruby the Elephant recently retired to a sanctuary in Northern California, the zoo could use another marquee name to attract interest. The only trouble is, that interest doesn’t necessarily mean more people come and buy tickets. At the San Diego Zoo, letters still come trickling in for Hua Mei, the rock star panda baby born in 1999 – and she moved to China in 2004. The black-and-white fuzzball won San Diego Person of the Year in a contest several years ago, but Public Relations Manager Christina Simmons said attendance didn’t increase as expected. “When they have a name, a history, a story, if they’ve been characterized with people attributes, it raises them to celebrity status,” she said. “Animals like that really have a following, but that doesn’t mean (the fans) come to the zoo.” While Reggie’s future remains murky, his turn in the spotlight has won him at least one high-profile supporter. Legendary television host Bob Barker, a noted animal lover who’s retiring from “The Price Is Right” next month, praised Reggie and declared him to be “quite a guy.” “I think the world of him,” Barker said. “Too bad we couldn’t have had him on the show, but I suppose he might have wanted to take a bite out of one of Barker’s Beauties.” brent.hopkins@dailynews.com (818) 713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Senior animal keeper Ian Recchio of the zoo’s reptile department recalled the dramatic Thursday scene where he and a crew of park workers pounced upon the struggling, hissing crocodilian. “I was thinking, `This is Reggie. We’ve got to get him. We can’t let this opportunity pass us by,”‘ Recchio recounted. “It’s like shooting a free throw to win the championship.” Recchio sank that proverbial free throw, a team transported the subdued submariner to the zoo and Reggie made the evening news and the headlines. On Friday, there was no greater gator. “Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie!” chanted Michael Levine, an author and expert on all things Hollywood. “We’re living in wacky times, so that helps create diversions like this. … Reggie the Alligator, Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua, things like that create a wonderful antidote to a national panic disorder.” Famous and popular as he is, Reggie faces a problem with his new digs – eight roommates who aren’t up for another lodger in their home. Recchio determined that the zoo’s present complement of alligators – six Americans and two of the Chinese variety – would be unsuitable to bunk with the new kid. GRIFFITH PARK – Forget Paris. Lindsay Who? The hottest smile in town belongs to an elusive celebrity who loves the water and has a taste for chicken. A day after he was nabbed Thursday while sunbathing near Machado Lake, Reggie the Alligator found himself the talk of the town. The reptile recluse, 6-feet-6-inches, 140 pounds and blessed with an immense array of gleaming pearly whites, captivated the nation with his two years of exploits cruising the Harbor City lake. After he was carted in, shackled with duct tape and blindfolded, the scaly celeb was romping behind closed doors Friday at the Los Angeles Zoo’s quarantine area. He’ll live the lush life there, dining on chicken and fish between dips in the pool, for at least another 30 days as keepers figure out what to do with their prized catch. last_img