Gatorland's Facebook Live program hits 1 million views
Described as a “rock show meets reptiles,” Gatorland’s widely popular Facebook Live program School of Croc program has reached 1 million views as it seeks to educate the public about wildlife in the theme park.
Hosted by “Principal” Savannah Boan, the park’s crocodilian enrichment coordinator, the program airs Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m., on Gatorland’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/gatorland.
Parents, children and families tune in from all over the world for the 10-minute or so programs that feature different reptiles and animals.
Boan and other staff members field questions as quick as they come in on the Facebook Live site.
“We wanted it to be super fun, super upbeat, not just someone preaching,” Boan said. “More like a rock show meets reptiles.”
Boan brings high energy and her deep knowledge to the programs, while Cameraman Dan (Dan Carro) captures her performance and reads off the questions posted and reads the names of the kids requesting “shoutouts.”
Viewers are encouraged to send in questions, submit photos and videos, and to like and share what they are seeing on Gatorland’s School of Croc Facebook Group page.
“Our super fans are incredible. Parents and kids from all over the U.S. and abroad are telling us how much they love learning from Savannah, our awesome animal team, and all our unique animals,” said Mark McHugh, Gatorland’s president and CEO, who has kept all 190 employees on the payroll while the park is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. “Kids and adults are joining our School of Croc “nation,” and asking for t-shirts to show their support. It has been amazing to see all the stories people are sharing about their relationship with the show.”
Boan said the show was created after Gatorland officials realized their closure due was going to last much longer than first thought.
“We wanted people to interact with each other,” Boan said. “We are bringing the park to them.”
During a show on April 9, the program was on two of Florida’s venomous snakes, the pygmy rattlesnake and the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
“This snake (pygmy rattlesnake) is responsible for biting more people in the state of Florida than any other venomous snake,” Gatorland Director of Media Relations Brandon Fisher tells viewers at eye-level with the reptile
This is for two reasons. It’s men who mistakenly think they can pick up the small snake, which only grows to be between 12 to 15 inches long, Fisher explained. And it bites children, who might chase little lizards in Florida, a favorite snack for the pygmy rattler.
The Eastern diamondback is the largest venomous snake in North America, named for the pattern of their skin. The snakes can grow up to 6-feetlong and sees by thermal imagery, Fisher explains as the snake sounds off its signature rattle.
With the programs having been running for just a month, Boan said the challenge is to keep making the production better with each show.
“It just took off so fast,” she said.
So fast that it recently reached 1 million views on Facebook.
The popularity comes from the relationships Gatorland staff has with the animals, Boan said.
“They are part of our family here at Gatorland,” she added. “
It’s also about the entertainment. The program is light, comedic and colorful, far from someone doing a stiff, monotone education lesson.
“Gatorland has always done things differently,” Boan said. “I think that is the gem in all of it that’s making it so great.”
She marveled over the impact it’s having with the kids who watch from as far as Australia and Scotland.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” she said. “Kids have questions that we would never think to ask and they are such great questions.”
Later in the day, A VLOG series also airs daily on Gatorland’s YouTube channel, Gatorland Vlogs, Monday through Saturday, at 3 p.m. Boan, Fisher, and other park animal experts, share fun facts about alligators, crocodiles, caiman, Burmese pythons, Macaws, monitor lizards, giant tortoises, rare leucistic and albino alligators, and much more during the 15-20 minute live, interactive videos.
Boan said her goal for the future of School of Croc would be to develop it into children’s programming for streaming sites such as Disney+ or Netflix.
“That would be the greatest thing in the world,” she said. “We definitely want the world to know about Gatorland.”
Gatorland has just launched the online sale of the School of Croc T-shirt, designed by Carro. Adults and children sizes can be ordered through the Gatorland gift shop online at www.gatorland.com.