(WSVN) – A South Florida man is out to change the stigma surrounding one of Florida’s biggest predators. Kevin Ozebek of 7 has 7 Spotlight today.
To you, these might be weak killing machines, but biologist Chris Gillette sees them differently.
Chris Gillette: “These are intelligent, intelligent animals. Many alligators have been better trained than people’s dogs.”
Kevin Ozbeck: “You’re kidding.”
Chris Gillette: “No, 100%. I have portals, like, where they know their names.”
And Chris can prove it.
Chris Gillette: “Snoopy!”
Kevin Ozbeck: “You’re the crocodile whisperer.”
Watch as Snoopy walks right into Chris’ hand.
Kevin Osiebec: “So my heart is racing here right now, but are you okay? You are as calm as a cucumber.”
Chris Gillette: Yeah, yeah. It’s normal.”
It’s natural because this is Chris’ passion and profession. He has become a social media star who interacts with the columns he saves.
When they end up swimming in pools and ponds, the state demands Chris remove them. Florida law states that pesky gates more than 4 feet tall cannot be returned to the wild.
Chris Gillette: “Normally, nuisance keepers are unfortunately killed, OK? You usually kill about 8,000 nuisance alligators each year in Florida.
But as Chris sees it…
Chris Gillette: “Every living animal has a right to exist.”
An alligator will never be killed, so some of the adults it hunts end up in Broward County’s Everglades vacation park.
Here, Chris entertains and learns with these huge reptiles.
Chris Gillette: “We only protect what we love, we only love what we know, and we only teach what we’ve learned, right?”
Some of Chris’ videos have gone viral. They are extraordinary to see.
Chris Gillette: “Look at that big boy. That’s a good alligator over there.”
But Chris says the message here isn’t that portals are cute. They deserve respect.
Chris Gillette: “He was eating me 100%. I wish he loved me I love him; he doesn’t love me. He’s a crocodile not a Labrador.”
And despite being able to hold an adult alligator, Chris also knows never to interact with them in the wild.
Chris Gillette: “I have permits, I’ve been doing this my whole life. I work in licensed facilities. Never, never try this yourself.”
While Chris may be known for his work with the Florida alligator, he is a lover of all animals.
From rescued pigs, chickens, and parrots, Chris runs a non-profit organization to rescue animals from his home.
But the local fauna really has a special place in his heart.
Chris Gillette: “I love Florida. I was born and raised in Florida, so the animals we have here in Florida are definitely near and dear to me.”
This of course includes the crocodile, and after you see one who recognizes his name, Chris hopes you’ll gain a newfound respect for them too.
Kevin Ozbeck, 7 News.
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