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Fort Fisher aquarium has birthday party for albino alligator

(NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher photo)

KURE BEACH, N.C. - An albino alligator at the N.C Aquarium at Fort Fisher celebrated its 12th birthday with her own custom cupcake.

Read below for the full press release.

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Fancy cupcakes are all the rage for birthday parties, even one for a 6.5-foot-long alligator. The animal care team at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher decided to mark the12th birthday of Luna, the albino alligator with her own custom creation. Instead of flour, milk and eggs, Aquarist Carol Richard used ingredients more appealing to the reptile's palate. Frozen layers of beef and fish were assembled in a two-day process, then iced with ruby-red blood worms in the shape of the number 12. Since candles weren't an option, a single, finger-sized smelt, a small fish, was frozen head out of the top of the cake. While a celebration was in order, this birthday shindig was part of a structured enrichment session for Luna and the three natural-colored alligators she lives with. To get things started, Richard and Larry Boles, assistant husbandry curator, first rewarded a series of positive behaviors with small, meaty snacks. Once all the alligators were in their respective feeding spots, the iced cakes were served. One skittered across the floor resembling an oversized hockey puck to be swatted back in play by an able trainer. Another threatened to float away but was snagged by powerful jaws. In the end all the cakes were crushed, chewed and chomped. Little fishy bits floated for later consumption, kind of like edible confetti. All the messy action was part of enrichment for the animals, Richard explains. "The ice cakes create a new and different experience for the alligators," said Richard. "An activity like this stimulates them cognitively and behaviorally." Regular enrichment and training are part of an overall care plan ensuring the physical and mental well-being of all animals living at the Aquarium. Luna has been in the care of the Aquarium since 2009. When she arrived she was 4.6 feet long and weighed only 20 pounds. She now measures 6.6 feet and weighs 65.5 pounds.. She is one of only 50 albino alligators known to exist. Chances of surviving in the wild are dramatically reduced for an albino alligator as their coloring makes them easier prey and more susceptible to the sun.

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