JENNINGS, LA (KPLC) - The 120-year-old turtle that greeted visitors for over two decades at the Gator Chateau at the Louisiana Oil & Gas Park along I-10 in Jennings has died.
Susan Daigle, Director of the Gator Chateau, said Rambeaux, the male alligator snapping turtle, resided at the park for 26 years.
Daigle said Rambeaux died of natural causes.
The turtle was originally donated in 1987 by Rick Reeves, and has held a special place in the hearts of Jennings residents and visitors who have watched it interact with the alligators for two generations.
Daigle said just in 2012, the Gator Chateau had 42,000 visitors from 36 countries and all 50 states.
Rambeaux was roughly 3-feet in diameter. Daigle described him as having "the beak of an eagle" and spikes along his back.
Daigle said he was one of the largest of his kind in Louisiana, because the species only grows at a rate of 1 to 1.25 inches or 1 pound per year.
The alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temmincki) is not listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, but it does receive a 3 out of 5 rarity ranking by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. It is illegal to commercially harvest alligator snapping turtles in Louisiana.
Daigle said that the decline of alligator snapping turtles likely began about 40 to 50 years ago when Louisiana swamps were polluted by chemical plants and refineries.
Gator Chateau is looking to acquire a new turtle, and those who spot alligator snapping turtles in the wild are encouraged to contact the Gator Chateau at 337-616-4311 or visit them at 100 Rue de L'Acadie at the Louisiana Oil & Gas Park in Jennings.