Flint Riverquarium officials are re-examining their security measures Friday after a homeless man managed to scale an exterior wall of the facility and swipe a nearly 4-foot long gator.
No one knows why the man took the gator, but the suspect is in jail and the alligator is back in his home.
The 6 year-old reptile affectionately called nubs for his missing toe quietly sits in a holding tank after being released into the wild Thursday.
"So when you take an animal out of their natural habitat, their home, and you put them into a wild situation like the Flint River, they could pick-up any kind of bacteria and parasites,"said Jenna Rathel, Aviculturist.
Police say 40 year-old Van Hai Tang scaled the Riverquarium's walls and took Nubs out of his tank.
"We weren't sure to start with and then started getting some reports of somebody seeing somebody with an alligator and then we came back and did a count and found out that one of ours was missing from the exhibit," said Tommy Gregors, Flint Riverquarium Chief Operating Officer.
An intern saw the suspect walk across the bridge over gator infested waters leading to Nubs' holding tank. Employees say Tang then used a pole to nudge the 4-foot reptile and grab him when he moved closer.
"This is the first occurrence here. I mean it's not...it has happened at other facilities across the country that folks have come in from time to time to try to take animals out and do who knows what with them," Gregors said.
Police reports say construction workers building the new bridge at Broad Avenue saw the suspect carrying the gator before he threw it into the water. Then shortly after, Riverquarium workers came and got the animal from the river.
"Anytime this happens you want to analyze your protocols, systems that you have in place, and then make any adjustments that are needed," said Gregors.
Nubs bit the worker who recovered the animal, but employees say his history in captivity may have minimized the wounds.
"Most wild gators, if they hear humans approach, or any type of something that seems out of the ordinary to them, they're gonna go in the water and you probably wouldn't see them again. And he tended to stay around the people that were trying to rescue him," said Rathel.
Workers are happy Nubs is back home. The employee who was bitten is recovering at home, but he did not require stitches. Nubs will remain in isolation for 30 days.
Officers are still working to determine exactly how the suspect took Nubs. Tang has been charged with theft by taking and is being held in the Dougherty County Jail with a $2000 bail.
Copyright 2013 WALB. All rights reserved.