Snappy birthday! Oldest alligator in Europe celebrates her 89th
An alligator called Marta has turned 89, making her the oldest ‘gator in a European zoo.
Originally from Louisiana, USA, the octogenarian reptile now living in Płock zoo certainly has a lot to celebrate having been a movie star, heartbreaker, and adventuress.
Hatched in 1930, the alligator spent her youth in the southern backwaters before moving to communist Poland.
Magdalena Kowalkowska from Płock ZOO recounted: "Marta comes from the now-defunct Reptile Jungle in Slidell, Louisiana (…). She came to Płock ZOO on August 19, 1960 with a male, Pedro.
“Marta and Pedro were bought by a Polish engineer Tadeusz Wągrowski who lives in the USA, as a response to the ‘Crocodile Campaign’ [Akcja Krokodyl].”
The Crocodile Campaign was an initiative, during which citizens of Płock would send books to the Polonia in Argentina in exchange for animals for their ZOO.
Once in Poland, however, her relationship with Pedro began to deteriorate.
“Marta never really accepted Pedro,” said Kowalkowska.
“There were several attempts to set Marta up with other male alligators, but without success. She didn’t like any of them. In the end, we accepted that Marta preferred to lead a single life.”
Pedro was forced to move to the Wrocław ZOO while Marta rose to stardom, playing in Andrzej Kondriatiuk’s 1970 movie “Hydrozagadka” (Hydro-puzzle), a criminal comedy set in Warsaw.
She show-cased her acting range by taking on not only a male role, but also starring as another species – the crocodile Herman.
Now well into retirement, the dame of the alligator world lives a life of leisure in her Queen-size terrarium and diet of beef and freshwater fish.
Kowalkowska said: “She is a very gentle alligator. Always accepts her caretakers. In recent years, she’s maybe a little less active, but considering her age it is understandable.
"Marta is unique. She is a record holder in terms of life expectancy, so we celebrate her every birthday with fanfare and we will do so, as long as she’s with us."
Marta’s birthday party will be held this Saturday, starting midday with a special sea food cake for the senior reptile and a regular gator-shaped cake for her human friends.
The programme includes arts and crafts workshop, a jubilee photo gallery and contests with prizes.