National Geographic television special features Missouri alligator gar expert

CAPE GIRARDEAU – When National Geographic producers were looking for an expert interview on Alligator Gar eating habits, they called up Chris Kennedy in Cape Girardeau. Kennedy works with alligator gar as part of his duties as the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Fisheries Supervisor for the Southeast region.

According to National Geographic Television’s associate producer, Abigail Pilgrim, Kennedy was one of the most passionate advocates for alligator gar they came across in their research and preparation to film the alligator gar project.

“He has a unique way of helping people learn to understand and love this fish,” Pilgrim said. “An important part of our story is learning more about the feeding habits of alligator gar, so it seemed like a perfect fit to bring Chris on board to demonstrate one of the ways scientists get that data.

Pilgrim said the key message she’s learned from Kennedy and other biologists while filming the alligator gar special is that the story of alligator gar - one of the biggest freshwater fish in the world - is also a story of habitat preservation, water quality, and all the smaller fish species where alligator gar live.

“The health of these monster fish is an important indication of the health of the whole ecosystem,” Pilgrim said. “We need to be paying attention, because if alligator gar start disappearing from our rivers and wetlands, it's an indication that a lot of other problems are soon to come.”

Pilgrim described alligator gar as a cross between a tank and an alligator, saying they’re amazingly calm and easy to handle. “They really are gentle giants - to get bitten you'd have to be trying hard and literally stick your hand in one of their mouths,” she said.

 “Monster Fish 3: Alligator Gar” will air Monday, July 19, at 9 p.m. CT on the National Geographic Channel. More information can be found on the National Geographic website, http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/monster-fish/4766/Overview.

For Kennedy, this is just one more effort toward educating the public about the benefits of alligator gar.

“Many people think alligator gars are eating sport fish, but that’s just not true,” Kennedy said. “Past studies indicate that alligator gar feed mainly as scavengers, and after pumping the stomachs of tracked alligator gar we found that they are also feeding on non-game species, which helps clean our water systems and balances riverine fish communities.”

According to Pilgrim, “Monster Fish: Alligator Gar” will remind viewers that you never know what's going to come to the surface from under our lakes and rivers. “I love being reminded that there are still so many incredible discoveries out there to still be made and I hope it helps kids understand how hands on and crucial science can be to everyday life,” she said.

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