A 10.5-foot, 341-pound Nile crocodile named Anuket made the trip from St. Augustine to the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine on Feb. 5 after eating a shoe.
It seems Anuket had swallowed the shoe in December when the shoe fell off of a person who was ziplining at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
Anuket was witnessed eating the shoe, and subsequently seen regurgitating it—then eating it right back up again.
According to the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, previous efforts to flush the sneaker out at the farm and at UF had been unsuccessful.
During the crocodile's most recent visit to UF, Zoo Medicine Resident Dr. Garrett Fraess initially attempted to remove the shoe by reaching his arm up and through the crocodile’s esophagus but was unsuccessful.
"I am now part of an exclusive group of people that have been swallowed by a crocodile, but fortunately I got to keep all of my limbs," said Fraess, a first year zoological medicine resident at UF.
The crocodile was anesthetized to reduce stress, provide pain control and ensure safety among the veterinary team, Fraess said.
"With the guidance of the incredibly knowledgeable St. Augustine Alligator Farm handlers, we were able to prop open the mouth and secure a mouth gag in place to ensure my safety," Fraess explained in a phone interview. "Sliding my hand down into the crocodile was as slimy as you might imagine, but what might surprise you is that it was very cold, because crocodiles are not warm blooded."
Fraess added that, "There was a lot of pressure on my arm, and even though I was wearing a lubricated palpation sleeve, once in the stomach I was able to feel the remnants of the crocodile's previous lunch—small bits of bone and stomach juice."
The zoo medicine team then took Anuket in for surgery, where Dr. Adam Biedrzycki, a large animal surgeon, attempted to manipulate the shoe through an incision and push it from the stomach to the esophagus, where Fraess hoped to be able to feel and grab hold of the shoe to pull it out.
That effort, too, failed. Biedrzycki finally performed a gastrotomy, which allowed easier access to the crocodile’s stomach. Within a short time, he was able to remove the shoe.
After an overnight stay, Anuket returned home and has been recuperating at the park since then.
This is not the first time the UF College of Veterinary Medicine helped out a reptile from the alligator farm.
An alligator named Bob visited in September 2020 for radiographs to diagnose the cause of lameness.
The zoo medicine veterinarians had determined that 12-foot-long Bob had osteomyelitis, a bone infection, in his right rear leg.
Thanks to ongoing treatment with antibiotics, Bob has shown fantastic improvement in the past few months, enjoying his environment and moving around much more easily, the college reported on Facebook.