Alligators – Changing Perceptions

Alligator – Changing Perceptions

Ambience: Alligator Bellow
Suddenly a huge alligator rushed out of the reeds and with a tremendous roar, came up with open jaws, belching water and smoke that fell upon me like rain in a hurricane.

That’s from William Bartram’s Travels in North and South Carolina. His account helped shape the attitudes of early settlers to the American Alligator. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Barrow: Probably the most infamous encounter of the American Alligator in Western literature is William Bartram, an American naturalist from Philadelphia, who spent four years in the southeastern United States in the late eighteenth century,

Historian Mark Barrow.

Barrow: Bartram did some really good work, but also prone to exaggeration. So, I think part of what is going on is his own fear and confusion about this thing he’s encountered. He definitely perceives this creature as trying to attack and devour him.

Unlike its cousin, the Nile Crocodile, the American Alligator is not prone to attacking humans, a fact which became more evident over time.

Barrow: The folks who are actually living close to the species begin to understand its behavioral characteristics much better than the folks that are distant from the actual species itself, who whose only knowledge is through things like Bartram’s Travels.
There’s this divide that develops among the locals who live near this creature who understand that it’s not a particularly aggressive creature and the scientists that study it that have this knowledge, versus the larger culture which has this series of very negative perceptions of this creature.

And over time, alligators have become a valuable commodity, a protected species and a symbol of the southeastern United States. We’ll hear more in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.

Alligators - Changing Perceptions

An eighteenth century American naturalist helped shape our perceptions of the American alligator.
Air Date:11/06/2014
Scientist:
Transcript:

Alligator - Changing Perceptions

Ambience: Alligator Bellow
Suddenly a huge alligator rushed out of the reeds and with a tremendous roar, came up with open jaws, belching water and smoke that fell upon me like rain in a hurricane.

That's from William Bartram's Travels in North and South Carolina. His account helped shape the attitudes of early settlers to the American Alligator. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Barrow: Probably the most infamous encounter of the American Alligator in Western literature is William Bartram, an American naturalist from Philadelphia, who spent four years in the southeastern United States in the late eighteenth century,

Historian Mark Barrow.

Barrow: Bartram did some really good work, but also prone to exaggeration. So, I think part of what is going on is his own fear and confusion about this thing he's encountered. He definitely perceives this creature as trying to attack and devour him.

Unlike its cousin, the Nile Crocodile, the American Alligator is not prone to attacking humans, a fact which became more evident over time.

Barrow: The folks who are actually living close to the species begin to understand its behavioral characteristics much better than the folks that are distant from the actual species itself, who whose only knowledge is through things like Bartram's Travels.
There's this divide that develops among the locals who live near this creature who understand that it's not a particularly aggressive creature and the scientists that study it that have this knowledge, versus the larger culture which has this series of very negative perceptions of this creature.

And over time, alligators have become a valuable commodity, a protected species and a symbol of the southeastern United States. We'll hear more in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.