First Animal In Cleveland Zoo's Rain Forest Exhibit Dies

CLEVELAND (AP) - Dreadnought, a 44-year-old male American crocodile and the first inhabitant of the Cleveland MetroPark Zoo's RainForest exhibit, is dead.

Zoo veterinarians euthanized the crocodile Saturday after a debilitating three-month illness.

"He was what you would call a charismatic animal," said the zoo's spokeswoman, Sue Allen. "People would miss him if they came to the RainForest and did not see him."

When he was there, it was hard to miss the 12-foot-long, 556-pound reptile, who was named after a British battleship.

Dreadnought was born in the wild in 1957 and came to Cleveland in 1988 as a donation from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

After two years on loan to a Tampa zoo, he returned to Ohio to become the first animal moved to the RainForest, the zoo's $30 million tropical display.

Zookeepers noticed something was wrong when the animal lost his appetite about three months ago. He became thin and lethargic, lost the use of his hind legs and began experiencing muscle tremors on one side.

American crocodiles typically have a life span of 50 to 60 years, so zookeepers are satisfied that Dreadnought lived a long life.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)