KURE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Stacey Murray-Rester scrubs alligators. It is part of her job at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. She does it so well that a video of her brushing the back and snout of a rare albino alligator went viral this week, appearing on social feeds from Charlotte to the Philippines.
The video, originally posted on the aquarium’s social media accounts on Monday evening, shows animal care team members Murray-Rester and co-worker Stephanie Lambeth providing an enrichment session for two American alligators in the aquarium’s care. Luna, the albino alligator, and Gantu, a natural-colored alligator, can be seen floating in their pool while being rubbed with long-handled brushes, to the apparent contentment of the animals. By Thursday afternoon, the video had been featured on multiple national and international news sites and was popping up on Snapchat.
“The alligators are the stars of the show,” said Murray-Rester. “We are simply providing the best care possible for these animals.”
The brushing activity is offered as a secondary enrichment to the alligators after feeding sessions, explained Murray-Rester. The animals choose to position themselves for the activity and are free to swim away at any time. In fact, if brushing ceases for one animal before the other, the alligators jockey for the lone brush.
“This is more of an enrichment activity for the animals than it is a cleaning, though that is a bonus,” said Ryan McAlarney, assistant husbandry curator. “And it is only one way our team cares for the alligators.”
When not scrubbing the alligators Murray-Rester and her co-workers may be weighing and cutting the animals’ meals and monitoring their nutrition, always ending feeding sessions with Luna’s favorite, a raw chicken drumstick. Regular training sessions with the alligators focus on making them comfortable during wellness checks.
Luna and Gantu receive daily care from the aquarium team. However, the alligators are out of public view currently, as the building where they live is closed for repairs until spring 2020. Until then the aquarium promises regular videos of the alligators.