Al­li­ga­tor ther­apy in the Big Easy

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - TRAVEL -

Dozens of air­ports around the coun­try have helped de-stress millions of pas­sen­gers with teams of ther­apy an­i­mals in the ter­mi­nals that in­clude mostly dogsand the oc­ca­sional pig (San Fran­cisco), cat (Den­ver) and minia­ture horse (Cincin­nati/North­ern Ken­tucky).

Now Louis Arm­strong New Or­leans In­ter­na­tional Air­port (MSY) is up­ping the an­i­mals-at-the-air­port ante with al­li­ga­tors.

Each Fri­day af­ter­noon, the Audubon Na­ture In­sti­tute now brings live baby al­li­ga­tors to the bag­gage claim area and en­cour­ages pas­sen­gers to pose for an “MSY Ga­tor Selfie.” If they’re brave enough, the pas­sen­gers are also al­lowed to touch the ga­tor.

“These baby al­li­ga­tors are prob­a­bly between a year and 3 years old and can be any­where from 1 to 3 feet long,” said MSY spokes­woman Erin Burns. “The Audubon Na­ture In­sti­tute will bring one or two baby ga­tors each week. These an­i­mals are used to be­ing han­dled and they get reg­u­lar breaks.”

MSY de­buted its dog ther­apy team, the MSY K-9 Krewe (a nod to the krewes, or groups, that or­ga­nize pa­rades and balls in New Or­leans) in June.

But Burns says the ga­tor vis­its and self­ies are an­other way the air­port is work­ing to en­hance the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence.

The MSY Ga­tor Self­ies pro­gram is sched­uled to con­tinue in­def­i­nitely, said Burns, and will move to the new Louis Arm­strong New Or­leans In­ter­na­tional Air­port ter­mi­nal when it opens in May 2019.

– Har­riet Baskas

NEW OR­LEANS INTL. AIR­PORT

Trav­el­ers can pet a baby al­li­ga­tor in New Or­leans.

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