Albino Academy alligator injures pinky

January 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
An albino alligator, who has become one of the top attractions at Golden Gate Park, will be taking a little break. He's usually part of the swamp exhibit at the Academy of Sciences, but he'll be behind the scenes for a few weeks recovering from an injury.

Claude, the albino alligator, has lived in the swamp tank at the California Academy of Sciences since he arrived last August. However like all white alligators, Claude has very poor eyesight; so he's still learning his way around his new home.

"He can't see them very well, so he has to kind of feel his way around and bumble his way around inside there," said Bart Shepherd, from California Academy of Sciences.

Claude also has a buddy in the tank named Bonnie. Apparently it's a love hate relationship. Last week, she bit him.

"What happened is he got in the water, he was swimming around, he bumped into her, thrashed about a bit, and she's telling him, 'Hey chill out a bit. It's not the end of the world here buddy. You're in the tank swimming,'" said Shepherd.

The bite was on Claude's right hand. It's especially noticeable on his pinky finger. Claude doesn't seem to be suffering. Still, the staff is concerned enough they've decided to have veterinarian examine him and possibly start him on antibiotics.

"Doing that in this exhibit is problematic. You have to climb over the rail down in there. He's very quickly going to associate somebody coming down in there as coming to give me a shot, and he's not going to like that," said Shepherd.

That could lead to a very unhappy ending. So instead, Claude will be taken out of the exhibit for about three weeks and held in a temporary tank behind-the-scenes, where it's easier for the staff to treat him.

"We're thinking it's fairly minor," said Shepherd.

When Claude comes back to the swamp, it seems likely there will be no hard feelings. Bonnie and Claude have clearly made up.

"You know alligators tend to have what we would call tough love. They really only have one way to express themselves, and that's with their mouth," said Shepherd.

Claude is expected to move out of the swamp tank into his temporary home on Wednesday.

This story was written and produced by Jennifer Olney.