New Orleans Airport Uses Baby Alligators To Comfort Travelers
By Sharelle Burt
Animals are being used at airports to help travelers deal with stress levels. In airports across the country, people have lined up for photo-ops with cuddly dogs, oinking pigs, and gorgeous horses. Now we can add a little more ferocious creature to that list.
Alligators are being used as comfort animals at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. A partnership with Audubon Nature Institute brings live baby alligators to the baggage claim area, encouraging passengers to pose for an “MSY Gator Selfie.” Only on Friday afternoons, passengers are also allowed to touch the gator, if they have the nerves for it.
It may seem a little scary at first, but Audubon Nature Institute hopes the experience is also an introduction to New Orleans wildlife and culture. They will have a table on display filled with artifacts to educate travelers on the animal’s history as well as other Louisiana wildlife like nutria, raccoons, and opossums. “These baby alligators are probably between a year and 3 years old and can be anywhere from 1 to 3 feet long,” MSY spokeswoman Erin Burns said. “The Audubon Nature Institute will bring one or two baby gators each week. These animals are used to being handled and they get regular breaks.” MSY debuted a dog therapy team named after groups that organize parades and balls in the city, called the MSY K-9 Krewe in June of this year. While that program has been effective, Burns hopes the gator visits and selfies is another way to enhance the passenger experience.
Since alligators are a prominent part of Louisana culture, the scaly animal is almost the city mascot. Visitors tend to partake in alligator tours, buy themed merchandise and eat at alligator themed restaurants. One gator from Audubon Nature Institute that’s set to make an appearance is Laveau, named after Marie Laveau, a New Orleans historical figure.