KISSIMMEE, Fla. - She's fearless, she's fun and she's showing the world why these gators are important and shouldn't be feared. You could even consider her a local celebrity.
Savannah Boan is the only woman at Gatorland in Kissimmee who handles the big reptiles. Boan, who's been working at the famous Central Florida park for three years, is the crocodilian enrichment coordinator there.
It's a job she dreamed of for many years. Every day, Boan interacts with the crocodiles and gators like Blackwater, an American crocodile who has become her best friend.
"Blackwater and I spend time together every day. We go on walks together. Sometimes we just sit together because he's a really good friend to talk about problems 'cause he can't tell anybody ... he likes to get his butt scratched," Boan said about the 12-foot gator.
Boan's fearless interaction with these creatures is what's unique about her. She's given them names and is making them known to the world.
"We've got people coming in here every single day asking, 'Where's Savannah?' They know Savannah, they know Dundee, they know Ricardo -- all of our alligators and our crocodiles by name -- and they learned all that from our social media," Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Gatorland said.
Boan is something of an Instagram celebrity. She uses the platform to share her love for animals with her more than 100,000 followers.
"I like for people to see a different side of them, like the only side you're ever gonna see in the news, is an attack. We've given a voice to all of these animals," the South Carolina native said.
She's always loved alligators, but it was many years before she got her dream job.
"At the top of my goal list was work for Gatorland. For years and years and years -- about seven years (until I) finally got to that," Boan said.
She has become such a driving force behind the positive image of alligators, leading her to do a TED Talk. Now, she's using her influence to get results.
"Second on my goal list was do TED Talks. The priority for me in that event was to get the message about Gatorland global. Gatorland Global is a conservation arm that Gatorland has now. We're going to other countries and we'll be on the ground floor with crocodile conservation work all over the world. Third thing on my goal list now is learn to speak Spanish so when I go to these countries I can do a better job as an ambassador for Gatorland Global," Boan said.
Next month, Boan will be traveling to Cuba as part of Gatorland Global, created in 2018 to provide a dedicated conservation program for Gatorland.
The organization's mission is to conserve and educate through specific programs designed to protect alligators and crocodiles in Florida, while providing dedicated resources to support conservation research of critically endangered crocodiles across the globe.
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