After 14 years of swimming laps around Ft. Jefferson Cleatus the crocodile is moving on to bigger and better things!
The Miami Herald recently reported that the famous American crocodile that called the Dry Tortugas home is now being relocated.
The 14ft long croc, nicknamed Cleatus, first showed up in 2003 and became the only croc to ever make and appearance at the fort. The croc first started showing up around East Key, but later began taking refuge in the moat that surrounds Ft. Jefferson. It didn't take long before this lonely croc started to become popular with locals and tourists.
Back in 2008 officials were able to capture him and through DNA testing confirmed that the croc was indeed related to the American crocodiles found in the Florida Everglades. Despite finding out where he may have come from, officials have no idea why he suddenly showed up so far from home.
Due to all the interest shown by tourists Cleatus began getting too friendly with visitors and the decision was made to relocate the poor guy back to the everglades.
"It wasn't a rash decision," said park manager Glenn Simpson. "There were two considerations we held highest and that's visitor safety and the safety of the crocodile and it's general health."
Last Sunday, with tourists watching, officials pulled the croc from the moat, taped his mouth shut, and loaded him on to a seaplane bound for his new home in Florida. Monday morning, once he had fully recovered from his tranquilizer coma, Cleatus was released back into the Everglades National Park in West Lake.
While there is no doubt that his presence at Ft. Jefferson will be missed, he will certainly enjoy the company of his brothers and sisters spread throughout the everglades.