Mary Lou, the approximately 58-year-old American alligator at the Santa Barbara Zoo, has died.
Mary Lou has lived at the zoo since it opened, making her the oldest and longest-term resident.
“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.
“A necropsy was performed over the weekend, which showed she had multiple severe pathologies that are most likely consistent with a generalized bacterial infection suspected to have originated from the reproductive tract.
“Tissue samples have been submitted, and we will likely know more when we get the histopathology results in a few weeks. Mary Lou has had a long and healthy life here at the Santa Barbara Zoo and has been loved by so many staff and guests over the years. We’re grateful to everyone who has loved and cared for her during her long life at the zoo!”
Mary Lou arrived at the zoo in 1964, along with a male alligator. The zoo’s very first director, Ted McToldridge, who retired in 1997, recalled when Mary Lou first arrived.
“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,” Mr. McToldridge said.
The two alligators were thought to be approximately 1 year old at that time. The male died in 1997.
American alligators generally live to be 50 or so years old.
— Gerry Fall