Smiles and Crocodiles: Inside the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

By: Chase Carle and Matthew Farina

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm houses one of Northeast Florida’s most impressive
attractions: A 16-foot, 1300-pound saltwater crocodile named Maximo.

Maximo appears docile at first, but onlookers quickly discover his fierce nature
during weekly feeding sessions with park staff, who admit they’ve had a few close calls.

“When I was in his enclosure, Maximo started to come out of the water in a feeding
response,” said Jim Darlington, the Alligator Farm’s Curator of Reptiles. “I turned my shovel over and tapped him on the nose.”

Maximo kept moving towards his caretaker, so Darlington said he acted swiftly to
avoid becoming Maximo’s next meal.

“I shoved the shovel in his mouth when I was backed up against the glass then jumped
over the front of his head,” says Darlington. “While I was running towards the door, I heard him sliding in the grass behind me.”

Even though Maximo can be a handful at times, audiences love to see him in action on
Saturdays at noon.

“People get really excited for feeding shows,” said Reptile Keeper III Haleigh Aceves. “It’s
probably the first time they’ve seen a 16 plus-foot crocodile pulling himself out of the water and walking across land.”

Darlington and Aceves stand on a deck above Maximo’s swimming tank. They use
feeding sticks to coax him out of the water and into the air, which they say always wows guests who love to see his athleticism.

Maximo draws plenty attention as the Alligator Farm’s largest animal, but he’s not the
only showstopper. The park offers a variety of animal exhibits, including Lemurs of Madagascar, Birds of Africa, and Python Cave. There’s even a zip line course for aerial views.

To find out more and purchase tickets, visit http://www.alligatorfarm.com.