Big gator is highlight of 2008 Vermont State Fair

RUTLAND Morgan horses, sheep, pigs, alligators, Holstein cows which of these critters dont come naturally to Rutland County? Believe it or not, all of these animals can be found at the 2008 Vermont State Fair Rutland. A unique animal show titled Kachunga and the Alligator has this years fairgoers biting their lips in fear and anticipation as veteran Florida bushman David Kachunga wrestles an aggressive alligator with his bare hands. Kachunga boasts he makes Crocodile Dundee look like a wimp. Well have to agree. This show of thrills began in 1982 as an educational program in Florida schools. Operators wanted clear up popular misconceptions about one of the oldest surviving reptiles on planet Earth the alligator. Alligators can be found in nearly all fresh water lakes and streams even artificial, municipal flood control ponds in the Sunshine State. While many of us have a natural fear of this living fossil animal, most of us dont know that alligators share a similar fear of humans. In fact, alligators dont appear to wrestle; their natural reaction is to turn tail turn and flee when they see a human being. Despite this fact, so far during 2008 there have been over 20 reports of alligators attacking humans; thankfully, few of these attacks resulted in fatalities. The Kachunga show, held at the fairgrounds in Rutland last week, highlighted three main reasons why alligators attack people: Female gators, just like any animal, are protective of their young. And males, as they grow ever larger, become territorial of their nests. Unfortunately, humans are to blame for rare alligators attacks the problem is feeding these wild reptiles. For this reason alone, it is illegal to feed alligators in Florida. The top land speed of an alligator is 12 mph. In water, where the big reptiles rule, its a different story. Some have been clocked at swimming at 25 mph. What allows alligators to swim fast is their powerful tails. It is a common belief that alligators flick their tails to break peoples legs, however this is a myth, according to Kachunga and company. An alligators purpose in doing so is to get their prey closer to their jaw. Alligator handler Kachunga, the shows star (human) performer, demonstrated how Native Americans from the Everglades catch alligators. With the alligator whipping ferociously, ready and willing to bite off a limb, Kachunga somehow climbed on the back, picked the alligator up, brought it to a dry surface, closed its jaw and held it shut with his chin. From there he demonstrated how the Indians would tie a string around the alligators jaw, allowing them to transport it safely. At one point in the show Kachunga put his hand inside of the alligators open jaw. He explained that because alligators have eyes on top of their head, they cant see anything below them. Just one drop of water was enough to catch the alligators attention. At lighting-fast speed, the alligators jaw clamped down and caused loud gasps from the audience. This mystical beast of the primordial mists had no trouble drawing a large Rutland crowd to see a battle between man and beast. We walked away with more understanding, and deep respect, for the alligator. If you see nothing else at the Vermont State Fair this year, make sure you see Kachunga and the Alligator.

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