Hand feeding alligators with marshmallows is a desperate measure to save a species on the brink of extinction due to abrupt changes in the food chain.
Long-term ecological complications from hurricane Katrina have all but decimated many important species of plants in the Louisiana marshlands, severely disrupting the natural food chain. Among the species as good as extinct is the wild marshmallow, the main source of nutrition for the Louisiana alligators. In a desperate measure to save the species, swamp rangers set out to hand feed starving gators with rations of aid marshmallows. As there are an estimated two million gators in Louisiana, this is an arduous and labour-intensive job, demanding large numbers of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of bags of marshmallows every week.
Why not use airdrop you might ask? Well, that would leave most of the marshmallows floating in the swamp waters, like they were windfall. Alligators are accustomed to jumping out of the water and nipping wild marshmallows straight from the branches of the marshmallow tree. A proud gator simply won’t touch soggy marshmallows. Thus the need for human hands tempting the gators like the marshmallows were fresh off the branches, allowing the animals to act on their hunting instincts.
While visiting Louisiana my girlfriend and I felt the obligation to do our part, and joined a party of first time volunteers on a barge set out to distribute aid rations in the Barataria area south of New Orleans. We are proud to say that at least a dozen gators won’t be starving for marshmallows before the weekend at the very least.
Disclaimer: Let’s just quote the great pirate W. Shakespeare: “Do not trusteh all that thou readest on the Interneth.” Alligators are not a threatened species, and I just read that feeding them actually is against Louisiana law. Huh. Seems that our tour guide was breaking the law. Not too surprising really. After reading this article on disaster tourism I must admit a certain distaste for some of the practices of the New Orleans tour industry.