Knoxville drug bust uncovers two alligators

Knoxville drug bust uncovers two alligators

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Aniroot Chuchalean was taken into custody, along with the two alligators living with him. (Picture source: Knoxville Zoo) Aniroot Chuchalean was taken into custody, along with the two alligators living with him. (Picture source: Knoxville Zoo)
The bust happened at Hamilton Inn Extended Stay on Clyde Street in Knoxville. The bust happened at Hamilton Inn Extended Stay on Clyde Street in Knoxville.
"He claims he picked them up in Florida when they were crossing the road. He took them in for safety and for whatever reason brought them to the hills of Tennessee, which is not good gator habitat. That's where he had them," said Matt Cameron. "He claims he picked them up in Florida when they were crossing the road. He took them in for safety and for whatever reason brought them to the hills of Tennessee, which is not good gator habitat. That's where he had them," said Matt Cameron.

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville drug bust uncovered two alligators on Thursday.

The bust happened at Hamilton Inn Extended Stay on Clyde Street in Knoxville.

Aniroot Chuchalean was taken into custody, along with the two alligators living with him.

The alligators are a couple months old and about 10 inches long. They are American alligators, which means they can grow to between 10 and 12 feet long.

Police were helping evict Chuchalean from his hotel room when they found pot, cocaine, crack pipes, and two alligators.

"He claims he picked them up in Florida when they were crossing the road. He took them in for safety and for whatever reason brought them to the hills of Tennessee, which is not good gator habitat. That's where he had them," said Matt Cameron, with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

In addition to drug charges, the TWRA was called. They slapped Chuchalean with a violation of the exotic animals law.

"People get them when they are small and take it inside and raise it. But reptiles continue to grow through their whole lifespan. Once they get too big, they have a large alligator and nowhere to take it," Cameron explained.

For the time being, the alligators will take up residence at the Knoxville Zoo. TWRA says they see an alligator case like this about once a year.

"The responsible thing to do is to not take alligators to begin with. It's wildlife like hippos, venomous snakes, lions, tigers and bears. You don't want to possess those things without a permit," Cameron said.

TWRA says it's possible Chuchalean wanted to trade the gators for drugs. The Knoxville Zoo says the alligators are eating crickets, worms and small mice right now.

Eventually they will go to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

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