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Thursday, February 02, 2023

Bert Lucas hops into a pit of water with a natural born killer every chance he gets.

For the past 20 years, Lucas, 40, of West Palm Beach, has performed at fairs and festivals around the world, entertaining and educating audiences by handling alligators.

Lucas will perform three shows a day at the 2012 Alachua County Fair, which ends Saturday.

His presentation, “Kachunga and the Alligator Show,” is produced for the company Wildlife Entertainment and Education. The show premiered in 1982 as a public awareness program to educate students through wildlife presentations, according to the Kachunga website.

“It’s an educational show, you know, we try to teach people about [alligators],” Lucas said.

Lucas saw a Kachunga show for the first time at the Florida State Fair in 1992 when he was a junior at the University of South Florida.

“I just thought it was so cool, and I started talking to the guys that ran the show, and I went to work for them next summer,” Lucas said.

Lucas left college to pursue his calling. He quickly became enamored of the showmanship and the chance to work with animals.

Twenty years later, Lucas said he loves to interact with the audience, especially when it’s someone’s first time seeing an alligator in real life.

“You can see the looks on their faces, and their eyes get big. They have so many questions,” Lucas said.

Aside from the performances, one of Lucas’ favorite parts of the job is the frequent traveling.

“I’ve been to the Philippines, I’ve been to Hawaii twice, I’ve been to Puerto Rico, all through Canada and everywhere in the other 49 [states],” Lucas said.

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Lucas’ job isn’t all about being a rock star and rolling around with an alligator; it’s serious business.

A bite from an alligator will cause serious puncture wounds, bruising and infection, explained Lucas, who has been bitten several times.

“It hurts. It’s a lot of pressure; They have extremely powerful jaws, so there’s a lot of pressure involved. You don’t feel the teeth … all you feel is the pressure,” Lucas said.

Handling alligators up to 10 feet in length still makes Lucas nervous.

He has no plans to quit anytime soon, though.

“As far as me getting in the water and being able to, you know, talk about them [alligators] and do a show — I can do that for another 20 years,” Lucas said.

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