Alligator taken as a hatchling returned to Texas zoo after 20 years

Texas Game Warden/Cover Images

An alligator believed to have been stolen from a Texas zoo as a hatchling has been returned after 20 years.

The 8-foot (2.5m) reptile, named Tewa, was found near Austin by officials from the Texas Game Warden's (TGW) office on Friday 3 March. The gator was returned to Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels, near San Antonio, nearly 50 miles away, on Monday.

In a statement, officials said: "Caldwell County Game Warden Joann Garza-Mayberry discovered the alligator while investigating an unrelated hunting incident. The resident confirmed that the alligator was her pet and kept in a fenced-in area. While the alligator was well cared for and healthy, at 8 feet in length, it had outgrown its habitat.

"Warden Garza -Mayberry connected the owner with the Texas Parks and Wildlife permitting department to determine if she qualified for an alligator permit. Once it was determined that she did not qualify, the warden coordinated efforts to relocate the alligator to a more suitable habitat."

They said they believed the alligator was originally taken from the zoo - who snapped up the chance to have the toothy critter back, despite it now being a fully grown adult gator.

The TGW spokesperson added: "She contacted the original facility where the alligator was taken, The Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels, Texas. The director of the facility, Jarrod Forthman, jumped at the opportunity to bring the alligator back home. Texas Game Wardens and zoo staff worked closely to arrange the removal and transportation of the alligator. Once at the new facility, she took to her new habitat immediately, swimming freely in a habitat more appropriate for her size."