Swamp Habitat Update

A significant change was made to the boardwalk fenceline in order to improve safety conditions for park guests and the animals. This safety cabling, reminiscent of Jurassic Park’s velociraptor containment, will aid further in the loss of equipment and other items overboard. It is very difficult, and quite dangerous, for zoo staff to recover dropped camera equipment, hats, phones, etc. It also greatly threatens the health of the crocodilians below that like to manipulate items from their jaws into their digestive tracks where most man-made products fail to break down, resulting in a medical issue.

Close up of safety cable addition.

The live oak island continues to receive detailed attention annually in order to minimize or reverse the demise of the main tree and encourage the surrounding live oaks to flourish. This island is tough on trees with a high soil pH from all the bird guano, soil compaction from an abundant number of alligators basking and occasional saltwater encroachment. Over the years we have attempted to decrease these issues by an air spade compost treatment and adding in a fence line to keep the alligators off the root systems. 

This winter we mixed biochar into the soil. This ancient product is a highly absorbent, specially-produced charcoal used as a soil amendment. Not only does in increase the water holding capacity of the soil, it improves the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the trees and stablizes the pH. Biochar also eliminates toxins from the environment such as arsenic and lead.

Close up of 3 mm particle size biochar used in specialty agriculture for use in depleted soils to increase soil fertility and growth.

  

We also collected tubers from the Asian air potato Dioscorea bulbifera. This highly invasive plant was introduced into Florida in 1905, can grow 8 inches a day and achieve lengths of up to 70 feet. The vines produce hundreds of tubers which fall to the ground when it dies back in the winter. Each tuber can then develop into a new vine producing hundreds more tubers. The best way to keep this invasive species under control is by hand-picking up the fallen tubers and the presence of the air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni, an effective biological control for air potato. 

All work was closely supervised by Hershey, our male American crocodile. 

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