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Santa Barbara Zoo's oldest resident dies

Mary Lou the Alligator
Mary Lou
Posted at 11:23 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 14:23:02-05

The Santa Barbara Zoo today announced that Mary Lou, the 58-year-old American alligator has passed away.

Mary Lou lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo since it first opened in 1964. She was the zoo's oldest and longest-term resident.

Zoo officials say the alligator died from health complications.

“A week ago Mary Lou began showing symptoms of being very ill with a systemic disease, and was being treated,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, Vice President of Animal Care & Health at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “Despite our efforts to reverse her symptoms, she did not respond to treatment."

The alligator arrived at the zoo in 1964 along with a male alligator. Ted McTodridge, the zoo's first director, recalls when Mary Lou first got the zoo.

“A little boy showed up at the Zoo one day, holding out a shoebox with two little alligators inside, and said ‘Mister, will you take care of my alligators? My mommy won’t let me keep them,’ and so we took them into our care,” said McToldridge.

The male died in 1997. Zoo officials say American alligators live until around 50 years old and Mary Lou was about 58.

“Mary Lou was the oldest animal at the Zoo, both in years lived and years in residence ,” said Nancy McToldridge, current Zoo Director. “That made her very special. She was known and loved, not only by staff and guests , but also by crocodilian enthusiasts across the country. We will miss her very much.”