Stolen alligator, missing for 20 years, returned to Texas zoo

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An alligator stolen more than 20 years ago and kept as a pet in a Texas neighborhood has been found, and authorities have returned her to the same zoo she was taken from.

The female reptile, named Tewa, is believed to have been carried off as a hatchling, or possibly even an egg, from the Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels, Tex., according to staff. Tewa was kept as a pet in the state, where alligators are protected under Texas law. It is an offense in Texas for people to take, sell, purchase or possess an alligator without a permit.

“Alligators don’t make good pets, y’all,” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in an Instagram post Friday that showed officials trying to load the eight-foot-long reptile into a truck.

A zoo spokesman said in a video posted to Facebook that the department called “about an alligator that someone apparently has had in their possession for over 20 years now.” The person evidently was “a volunteer here actually at Animal World and Snake Farm” back then “and apparently stole this alligator,” the spokesman said.

Officers from Texas Parks and Wildlife found Tewa in the backyard of a woman around 50 miles from the zoo she was taken from, the zoo spokesman said. Upon finding the alligator, officers noted that the woman, who was not immediately identified, was unable to meet the requirements to obtain a permit to keep the reptile, and so they began working to find Tewa a new home.

“We were their first phone call,” a zoo employee said in the video, which showed officials carrying the reptile into a truck. “You’re okay, Gator,” one warden can be heard reassuring Tewa.

A video shared on Facebook over the weekend showed Texas game wardens and staff from the zoo carrying the alligator back into the facility she left over two decades ago with her mouth bound and webbed feet outstretched. Crowds at the zoo lined the path to watch as the alligator arrived back at the zoo.

Tewa was later videoed walking gingerly into the water, where she will be kept alongside other reptiles.

On Facebook, Texas game wardens thanked the staff from Animal World and Snake Farm for helping with the alligator relocation. “With our combined knowledge and experience, the transition was seamless,” an official said.

According to the zoo spokesman, Tewa is so far “happy” in her new habitat, where employees hope she will “live out the rest of her life.”

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