Found in Lake Michigan and nursed back to health, David the Alligator leaves Wildlife Discovery Center for permanent home

Chicago Scene

The Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest has reopened to guests.  

Many have enjoyed spending time walking the trails and exploring this living museum. But, one of the most exciting opportunities is the close-up encounter with their crocodilians and other reptiles. 

One crocodilian you might remember is David the Alligator, whose exhibit is considered a must-see stop when visiting the museum.

David made international headlines when he was found swimming in Waukegan Harbor in Lake Michigan. After being caught by kayaker, experts quickly realized the alligator was extremely sick and had only days to live.

According to Rob Carmichael, curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center, David was very weak when pulled out of Lake Michigan. Weighing just 16.3 pounds and was only 52 inches long. His stomach was filled with debris found in the lake, forcing David to regurgitate pieces of plastic and rubber in recovery.

David needed live-saving measures and the efforts of the veterinarians at the Wildlife Discovery Center did just that. 

David the Alligator is now thriving. 

“He’s now 6 feet, healthy, and continues growing,” said Carmichael. 

David has been doing so well that he’s outgrown the space at Wildlife Discovery Center, and Carmichael decided it was time for David to move. 

“Gatorland’s commitment to excellent care and lots of hands-on interaction closely aligns with our philosophies. I can’t think of a better place for David to live out his life,” he said.

Joining David at Gatorland is another Wildlife Discovery Center alligator named Casanova, a 30-year-old American Alligator who was rescued from a drug “crack” house where he spent 20 years crammed in a 40-gallon tank with no light or heat and fed one goldfish a month.

“Casanova also deserves a place like Gatorland to live out his life. These two gators hit the jackpot,” added Carmichael

David and Casanova are among more than 40 alligators and crocodiles that Gatorland has rescued or given new homes to as part of the Gatorland Global Conservation Program.

Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park combining Old Florida charm with exciting experiences, exhibits, and entertainment.

Admission to the Wildlife Discovery Center is free, but you must register for a time slot. 

The Wildlife Discovery Center at Elawa Farm
City of Lake Forest Parks, Forestry & Recreation
1401 Middlefork Drive
Lake Forest, IL 60045

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