By Snezana Stanojevic
Belgrade, 24 Sep (efe-epa).- His name is Muja, he has three legs and lives in Belgrade Zoo.
At 84 years of age, he is thought to be the longest-lived American alligator in captivity and his keepers say his good health could see him carry on for several more years.
Life in his small pool, a balanced diet, the care of the staff and attention from visitors seem to have a healthy effect on the reptile, which arrived in Serbia in the mid-1930s.
The death of another alligator at Moscow Zoo earlier this year has left Muja without his main rival for the longevity of an American alligator in captivity.
“Muja came to Belgrade Zoo in 1936, the year of its foundation. He was no longer a baby, but rather a young adult,” zoo veterinarian Jozef Ezvedj told Efe.
“He is a real relic at the age of 84 or 85 years,” he said, adding that these animals do not usually reach 50 years of age.
Muja’s precise age is unknown because documentation of his transfer to Seria was lost during the Nazi bombing of Belgrade during World War Two when the zoo was severely damaged and many animals died.
The young crocodilian was among the few survivors and is now the zoo’s oldest animal.
Muja is a healthy male alligator, in good physical condition, active and mobile for his age, according to his vet.
Eight years ago he developed gangrene in one leg and underwent surgery to remove part of the infected limb.
This does not stop the giant reptile, which weighs around 100 kg and is 3.5 meters long, from hunting down his dinners.
“He feeds once every two weeks and eats small rodents, quails, horse meat, fish, beef. The amount is from two to three kilos since he is old and doesn’t move very much,” Ezvedj said.
Muja’s pool is about eight meters long and five meters wide and does not resemble his natural environment in the rivers and lakes of the southeastern United States.
During the winter, when temperatures plummet in the Balkans, he is moved to a smaller indoor pool equipped with UV lamps instead of sunlight.
Muja is the main attraction at Belgrade Zoo and popular with visitors.
“People know his age and respect it. We all hope Muja lives for many more years,” Ezvedj said.
The alligator recently underwent a full clinical examination and the vets were pleased with his condition.
“His longevity is possibly due to several factors. I’m sure his genetics have an impact.
“The care he receives and the nourishment he receives cannot be ignored either. He also has veterinary and medical protection,” Ezvedj added.