A Florida inmate has been charged with animal cruelty after feeding a live iguana to an alligator at a prison petting zoo.
Jason Aaron Gibson, 40, tossed the iguana, named “Mojo,” into the alligator pen at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm in Key West, Florida, at around 1.30 p.m. on Sunday, farm supervisor Jeanne Selandar said.
“I’m still in disbelief,” she told Newsweek. “Nothing like this has happened during my 13-year tenure as farm supervisor.”
Gibson’s fellow inmates reported his alleged actions, said the Miami Herald. He then admitted to throwing a second iguana to the alligator, named Irwin, on September 29.
Mark Morales told sheriff’s deputies he had been feeding a sloth when he heard a noise and turned around to see Gibson throwing the iguana to the alligator, according to the Herald.
Another inmate, Myles Tafel, told authorities that he had pleaded with Gibson not to feed the other iguana to the alligator on September 29.
Sheriff’s deputies said Gibson admitted throwing the iguanas to the 6-foot long alligator. Irwin—who lives on dead rats fed to him once a week— didn’t actually eat Mojo, but did kill the iguana and leave its carcass in his habitat, according to the newspaper.
Deputy Arron Roddy wrote in the arrest report Gibson claimed he wasn’t aware the iguanas were pets and thought they were “nuisance” animals.
But Selander, who runs the farm and is the only one permitted to feed the alligator, is sure that Gibson knew.
“I am sure he knew that one of the iguanas, Mojo, was a pet. The other one he tossed to the gator was wild,” she said. “There are many wild iguanas that roam in and out of the farm property. I did not ‘miss’ the first iguana, as it was not a pet.”
She found the tail of an iguana inside the alligator’s pond, which turned out to the remains of the first creature.
“I did not think twice about it because the iguana enclosure is open at the top, and occasionally a wild iguana would enter and be eaten by the gator—circle of life,” she added.
She told Newsweek that Gibson had started working at the farm on September 19, but has since been removed from duties.
Selander said inmate workers on the farm have duties that include feeding, watering, cleaning and caring for the animals, but they are not permitted to feed the snakes, lizards or gators. She added that no live food is ever given to any of the animals.
Gibson was arrested on Monday on two felony charges of animal cruelty, jail records show. He was being detained at the Monroe County Jail on Stock Island while awaiting trial for a grand theft auto charge. He is set to be arraigned on November 11.
Some inmates detained at the Monroe County Jail are allowed to work at the animal farm.
The farm, which opened in 1994, began as a haven for homeless animals but now houses more than 150 animals, including a sloth named Mo. New arrivals include Jack the ostrich, Julien the lemur and Coco the skunk.
The Animal Farm is open to the public free of charge on the second and fourth Sunday of every month.