SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Santa Barbara's oldest living resident Mary Lou, a 58-year-old American alligator, has died.
Mary Lou was around 58 years old and arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo back in 1964 when the zoo first opened.
According to the Zoo, Mary Lou showed symptoms of being ill with systemic disease and was treated but the alligator did not respond to the treatments and unfortunately passed away.
Zoo officials performed a necropsy on her and found that she had a bacterial infection suspected to have originated from her reproductive tract.
The zoo has sent tissue samples to the lab to get more information on what caused her death.
According to the Zoo's first director, Mary Lou was given by a little boy who showed up at the zoo with a shoebox that had two alligators inside asking the zoo to take care of the reptiles.
The alligators were around one year old at that time. The male alligator died in 1997 and Mary Lou lived to be around 58 years old.
American alligators generally live until around 50 years old.
“Mary Lou was the oldest animal at the Zoo, both in years lived and years in residence ,” said Nancy McToldridge, the 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.”
In 1967, American alligators were protected as an endangered species, even before the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This was due to habitat loss and hunting for their skins, which were used to make handbags, wallets, shoes, and other products.
Their numbers rebounded twenty years later and American alligators were considered one of the first endangered species success stories.