An alligator that was deemed "overweight" and "unathletic" and suffering from "terrible arthritis" managed to escape its enclosure at a United States zoo, leaving its owner baffled.
Rex went missing from Doc’s Zoo at Doc’s Harley-Davidson in Bonduel, Wisconsin, on Saturday morning.
What shocked its owner Steve 'Doc' Hopkins was that Rex was the only one of four animals in the outdoor pen that managed to break loose.
"We came out to feed the gators today and one of them was missing," Hopkins told WLUK.
"There was no sign of the enclosure being breached in any way or the gator digging underneath or anything. It’s just very strange. This has never happened before."
Hopkins added that "the old gator is very unathletic and quite overweight".
Rex could "barely open his jaws" and "has terrible arthritis", he said.
"If he can open up his jaw an inch and a half, it’s a lot. The most he could do is probably slap you with his tail and that is only if you get close and upset him," Hopkins said.
He could come up with no logical explanation for Rex’s disappearance.
"The only thing I can think is maybe he was pumping iron all during Covid or something and planned his escape," the zoo owner said.
Hopkins posted on Facebook asking the public not to harm Rex as he is "typically very docile & is not a danger".
He explained that Doc’s Harley-Davidson has provided care and been a sanctuary for unwanted pet alligators and other exotic animals for more than three decades and does not charge admission to its zoo.
Two days later, Hopkins in a joyful Facebook post shared that Rex was "home safe".
The Shawano County Sheriff’s Department also reported Rex was found.
Rex was spotted by Hopkins’ son Steve in the swampy wooded area on the zoo owner’s complex.
"What an adventure he must’ve had," Hopkins wrote on Facebook on Monday.
"Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all that helped in our search efforts."
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