On another note, there was an article about a Golden Retriever that escaped the attack of a 14 ft., 700 lb. gator in a canal near Annapolis, SC. The gator was later captured and killed since it also showed no fear toward the dogs owner.
Chip in SC
Posted on Mon, Jul. 18, 2005
A rare white alligator involved in a legal case is staying-in-Riverbanks Zoo.
Rare gator-in-center of case
Two men charged with capturing, possessing white, blue-eyed reptile
By JOEY HOLLEMAN
The white alligator held behind the scenes-in-Riverbanks Zoo might be the rarest piece of court evidence ever in South Carolina.
The alligator's rarity is one reason it is evidence in the first place.
Technically, it's a leucistic gator, with white pigment and blue eyes. Experts say fewer than a dozen are in captivity and, because their coloring makes them especially susceptible to predators, maybe even fewer are in the wild.
An effort to protect this unusual creature led to criminal charges against two brothers who are enthusiastic reptile collectors. Nearly two years later, though, the court case has gone nowhere, and the nearly 2-foot-long gator, a would-be star in zoo circles, is seen only by the keepers who care for it.
Ted Clamp, 59, and Heyward Clamp, 62, are charged with taking and possessing an American alligator, a crime under state statutes designed to protect an endangered species. The punishment is up to 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
But the brothers, who own the Edisto Serpentarium near Edisto Beach, say they acted only to save the alligator and two white siblings, which have died since. And, they say, they contacted the Department of Natural Resources before they acted.
A GATOR STORY
The case of the white gator began in September 2003, according to the incident report filed by state wildlife officers. A tourist noticed what appeared to be two newly hatched white gators among a brood of more typical gators on the bank of Ocean Gate Lagoon in Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Resort.
He showed them to Charles Jordan, whose home is next to the lagoon. Jordan called the Clamps, who are his cousins.
On Sept. 11, Jordan mentioned the white gators to Sea Pines wildlife officials David Henderson and Todd McNeill. Later that day, Jordan called Sea Pines security and asked them to tell Henderson a third white gator had shown up on the bank.
A week later, Jordan called to report that he had captured the third gator himself, fearing for its safety in the lagoon. Two S.C. DNR officers went with Henderson to Jordan's home and found the 6-inch gator in a bucket on his porch.
Jordan told DNR officer David Vaughn that under the circumstances, he felt he was doing the right thing. He also told Vaughn the other two white gator hatchlings were-in-the Edisto Serpentarium.
When Vaughn contacted the Clamps, they admitted they had the gators and asked him to come pick them up. He drove to the Serpentarium, where the gators were kept in a large aquarium, according to the report.
Vaughn seized the gators immediately. On Oct. 1, 2003, arrest warrants were issued for Jordan and the Clamps on gator possession charges.
Ted Clamp told Vaughn "he knew they were wrong in taking the alligators; however, he was afraid something would happen to them if he didn't," Vaughn wrote in the report.
Ted Clamp had contacted Derrell Shipes, who handles alligator issues for DNR, several days before and asked if he could capture the white gators based on an alligator-possession permit issued to the Serpentarium in 1965.
Shipes sounded pessimistic but didn't close the door on the possibility, Ted Clamp said in his statement. Shipes said he never gave the Clamps permission to capture the gators, according to the report.
The Clamps and Shipes played phone tag for a day or two. Then Shipes was away from his office for a week. Fearing for the safety of the two white gators, Ted Clamp said, he captured them and took them to the Serpentarium.
When Ted Clamp got Shipes on the phone a week later, he asked again about getting a permit to capture the white gators. He didn't mention that he already had the gators, according to the report.
The case has been passed among several different prosecutors in the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office. Along the way, Jordan opted for pretrial intervention, a program that allows first-time offenders charged with nonviolent crimes to clear their records upon completion of community service.
The Clamps turned down a similar offer, saying they want a jury trial. No trial date has been set.
The Clamps forwarded all questions to their attorney, Charles Macloskie.
"These people are very well-known in that small community and very well-known in the Department of Natural Resources," Macloskie said. "And they have a good reputation."
DNR officials have refused to talk about the case other than to clarify points in the incident report, which is public record, or about alligator permits in general. Permits typically are given to capture only gators that are a danger to humans or pets.
Through the years, DNR biologists have worked with the Clamps to conduct snake counts in the wild and on public education programs using the Serpentarium's snakes. Privately, many involved express regret the former collaborators have become adversaries in this case.
"Their only consideration was saving these alligators from a bad destiny," Macloskie said. "They would not have survived in the wild."
The recovery of the American alligator species in the wild is an ecological success story. Gators were taken off the endangered species list in 1987 and now are common in South Carolina's coastal plain.
But white alligators are way beyond rare.
Fishermen in Louisiana found 19 male leucistic gators nearly eight years ago, and several of the 10 remaining from that brood tour the country's zoos under the auspices of the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. They often are touted as the only living examples of this genetic mutation.
Leucistic gators "probably occur with some frequency in the wild, but nobody knows what frequency," said Dan Maloney, curator of animals-in-the Audubon Zoo.
Most leucistic gators likely die soon after birth because they don't have natural camouflage from predators. Maloney speculated that there might be some adult gators in the wild that are covered by a green coating from years living in algae-filled water. But the chances are slim.
Two of the gators involved in the Clamp case died of infections soon after they were brought to Riverbanks Zoo. The survivor is thriving, Riverbanks reptile curator Scott Pfaff said. But until the legal situation is settled, the creature remains under wraps.
The gator, whose gender hasn't been determined, is kept in a large fiberglass tank when inside or a large metal tublike enclosure when outside. Its diet includes bugs, worms, fish and small mice.
There's no guarantee the gator ever will be on display-in-Riverbanks, even after the case is settled. The S.C. Natural Resources Department usually makes the determination of where the animals it seizes end up.
If the gator is a female, Maloney would love to get it together with one of Audubon's males. Scientists would be fascinated to see the offspring of two leucistic gators.
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