Gatorland: Growing alligators return from Busch Gardens

Gatorland is welcoming home 19 American alligators that were on loan to Busch Gardens in Tampa.

The animals, between 6 and 8 feet long apiece, outgrew their exhibit at the theme park. In Orlando, they'll have more elbow room: The females will be released into Gatorland's breeding marsh, and the males will be on exhibit for Gatorland guests to see.

“In the wild, an American alligator can typically grow 10-12 inches each year,” says Mike Hileman, Gatorland’s director of entertainment. “In a captive environment that growth rate can easily be intensified."

Gatorland, which opened on South Orange Blossom Trail in 1949, has animals on loan to several attractions, theme parks and zoos, Hilerman says.

These gators -- 10 males and nine females -- were moved to Tampa in two smaller groups around 2010, a Gatorland spokeswoman says.

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