It really will be a white Christmas at the Wildlife World Zoo. The state’s only white alligator will be on display this weekend during the zoo’s Wild Winter Nights celebration.
"It’s very unique," says Grey Stafford, the zoo’s director of conservation and communication. "It’s one of the most rare reptiles in the world."
The white alligator is on loan from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and will be on display through April. Albino animals are extremely rare in the wild. Their color puts them at a disadvantage. If they’re prey animals, they have a hard time camouflaging themselves. If they’re predators, the prey will see them coming.
The problem is compounded for alligators. Most alligators give birth to a few dozen babies at a time. Only one will reach adulthood, says Stafford. Even normally colored alligators have a hard time surviving. Predators will pick them off, and male alligators cannibalize the young.
"It’s no wonder there aren’t many albino alligators," says Stafford.
The zoo had to create a climate-controlled room with a pool and limited sunlight to house the albino alligator. The mutation occurs naturally among alligators found in the southeastern United States.
The Wild Winter Nights celebration will also feature thousands of holiday lights and animated displays. It may not be the biggest light show in the state, but it’s the only one that features live animals. Visitors will see at least 200 of the zoo’s 350 species and the aquarium, small animal and reptile buildings will be open.
Wild Winter Nights
What: Holiday light display, rides and petting zoo
When: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 11 and 5:30 to 9 p.m. daily Dec. 16 through Jan. 8. The zoo is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Where: Wildlife World Zoo, 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park
Cost: $6 adults and children 3 and older. Daytime admission is $15.99 adults, $8.99 children ages 3 to 12.
Information: (623) 935-9453 or www.wildlifeworld.com
Take Interstate 10 west to Loop 303 (Exit 124). Head north six miles to Northern Avenue and turn right (east). Scott Kirchhofer/TRIBUNE
Luke Wildlife Air Force 303 World Zoo Base
LITCHFIELD Indian School Rd. PARK
Surprise GOODYEAR Sun City 1 mi Detail Glendale Phoenix 10 Tolleson Sarival Ave. Litchfield Rd.