Friday, August 10, 2007

Reggie comes home . . .

Reggie the alligator -- last seen in public in May, when he was captured at a Harbor City lake -- made his debut at the Los Angeles Zoo on Thursday, with many of his fans there to cheer him on.

Nearly 150 people, many decked out in alligator hats and Reggie T-shirts, crowded around his enclosure awaiting the big event, craning for a view over a line of news cameras. Many visitors had arrived from Harbor City on buses arranged by City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

Officials said the event was a fitting end to Reggie's saga, which began in 2005 when he was dumped by his owners into Lake Machado.

After an extended stay marked by expensive attempts at capture, the urban alligator was caught and sent to the zoo via motorcade, whose progress was followed live on television.

"Someone put him in a lake and now he's here," said Isaiah Hernandez, 4, who wore a "Welcome Reggie" pin and had his face painted green. "I really like alligators. When I grow up, I'll be a croc hunter."

As onlookers chanted "We want Reggie," about a dozen firefighters and zookeepers gently lowered the alligator into his open-air habitat, unwrapped a towel from his eyes and a restraint from his jaw, and then retreated to safety.

Amid cheers and applause, Reggie crawled languidly into the water and promptly hid behind a large rock. His caretakers said he is still adjusting to his new home.

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