LOS ANGELES – Reggie, the alligator that cruised an urban lake for nearly two years while eluding what were purported to be some of the world's best gator wranglers, was introduced to adoring fans on Thursday at his new home in the Los Angeles Zoo.
The 7 1/2-foot-long, 114-pound alligator was brought in to his own exhibit area to cheers and chants of "We want Reggie."
Hundreds of people, many wearing Reggie T-shirts and alligator hats, watched as about a dozen handlers lugged the gator into the compound, his jaws wrapped up in a towel and duct tape.
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He was unwrapped and, after a nudge or two, slid into his pool.
The zoo has six other American alligators and two Chinese alligators. But Reggie gets his own fenced pond, which features a waterfall and marshy plantings.
"I think he'll be happy here. He's got a luxury suite — it's absolutely gorgeous," Councilwoman Janice Hahn said. "It's a great ending to a great story."
Reggie was spotted in Harbor City's Machado Lake in August 2005. Authorities say a man who illegally raised Reggie as a pet dumped the gator in the lake when it got too big.
Over the next two years, Reggie cruised the 53-acre lagoon, apparently dining on frogs, crayfish and the occasional tortillas and chicken legs left by visitors and park officials.
He outwitted several efforts by professional wranglers to capture him as his fame spread.
The city spent about $180,000 trying to grab Reggie and on security measures to protect lakegoers from him, said Hahn, whose council district includes Harbor City.
The gator was finally corralled in May after a park maintenance worker spotted Reggie catching some sun on a lake bank.
Zoo officials quarantined Reggie until his official unveiling.
The gator, believed to be 7 or 8 years old, is still growing and could become 10 feet long and weigh 350 pounds, said zoo director John Lewis.
"We are proud to offer the alligator a safe haven and even happier to have this opportunity to speak to the importance of not releasing exotic animals into the wild ecosystem," Lewis said.