Dry land beckons woman who swam with alligators

Josephine Fitzgerald with James Hennessy doing battle with an American alligator at the Reptile Village in Gowran, Co Kilkenny. Pic: Pat Moore

She may have enjoyed it, but the mum who leapt into a pool with two alligators says she plans to stay firmly on dry land now.

Josephine Fitzgerald, 58, from Callan, Co Kilkenny, swam with the alligators to raise funds for Breast Cancer Awareness at the weekend.

Josephine, whose daughter Cathy is battling cancer, took the plunge on Saturday at the Kilkenny reptile centre and emerged unscathed, though she admitted there were some hairy moments.

“I was grand in the build-up, but when I stood at the edge of the pool and realised what exactly lay ahead of me, I was terrified, but I just thought ‘Here goes’ and jumped in.

“James Plunkett, who runs the centre, was poolside but the reality hit me when I was in the water and face-to-face with the alligators: I knew that if they turned nasty I was in serious trouble.

“The male weighed 40 stone or something like that and the female slightly less, so any ideas I had of wrestling with them went, like you see in the movies, out of my head straightaway.

“At one stage I did manage to get up on the back of the male, and that caused a stir, the female started to move towards me as she did not like me moving in on her fella. I noticed her edging closer and James just told me to get off the male’s back and, I’ll tell you, he didn’t have to tell me twice.

“That was the only really anxious moment, I had been told before I got in that if I didn’t bother them they wouldn’t bother me, and thankfully that’s how it turned out.

“I was surprised at the texture of their skin actually, I imagined it would be scaly and slimy but it turned out to be really hard and rubbery which took me aback.

“Right up until I was almost in there with them I didn’t feel at all nervous, but when I was up close and personal with them and could see just how powerful they were then I was a bit — OK a lot — shaky.

“Would I do it again, for this particular cause, yes, without question. However, I don’t think I’d be much good on I’m A Celebrity if they asked me to do it as a bushtucker trial.

“It was grand and I am glad I did it, but definitely this is one adventure I wouldn’t really want to repeat.

“I said it when I got back out of the pool that I was glad to be back on dry land and that’s where I intend to stay.

“Put it this way I enjoyed the experience.”

The alligators were unavailable for comment.


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