‘Wow, she’s grown!’

  • Thursday, July 10, 2014

Photos by Eileen Keithly/South Strand News Owen Cunnington checks Madison Culvack’s accuracy and recounts the teeth on the alligator head. See more photos at southstrandnews.com.


The place was a zoo!

Twenty kids, four turtles, a horse shoe crab, Elvis the snake, and a handful of educated mammals gathered at Hobcaw Barony on July 2 to celebrate Aggie the Alligator’s sixth birthday.

Elvis, the resident Eastern King snake, could have cared less about the party going on inside his abode at Hobcaw Barony’s Discovery Center classroom, but 6-year-old Owen Cunnington of Pawleys Island was thrilled to be there.

“Have you ever heard a baby alligator chirp?” he inquired. “It is so cool, that’s how they communicate with their mamas in the wild.”

It was clear that the party host, Senior Interpreter Richard Camlin, was serving up much more than gourmet cupcakes and juice boxes at this party.

Using imaginative hands-on activities like “dress the gator,” Camlin had the children mesmerized for two hours with fun facts and useful knowledge that inspired the children to ask questions and explore the world of the American alligator.

“Ok, I need a volunteer who would like to stand up here and let me dress them like a gator,” Camlin solicited.

Before he knew it, T.J. Ulrichse was dressed in a rain coat and full scuba equipment to demonstrate the physical features of an alligator.

While going over the physical features, development, habitat and the ecosystem roles of the alligator, Camlin had the children examine the jaw structure and count the teeth of a preserved alligator head.

Not flinching a muscle at handling the preserved gator, 5-year-old Madison Culvack shouted, “I’ve counted 81 teeth!”

While most kids look forward to eating their cake and ice cream at a birthday party, the favor of this party was having an opportunity to pet Aggie herself.

Camlin carried the small gator in his arms around the room and gave each partygoer an opportunity to give Aggie a little birthday love by stroking her back and rubbing her feet.

After placing her back in her Hobcaw habitat, the group serenaded Aggie with a good old-fashioned round of “Happy Birthday to You.”

Aggie just seemed to smile.

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