Every day is a gator adventure for this Myrtle Beach-area zoological operations manager

For Weekly SurgeMarch 11, 2014 

Travis Correll, Zoological Operations Manager at Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach. Courtesy photo.

Travis Correll, 32, moved to the Grand Strand from Ohio with his parents when he was in the eighth grade. He says the family used to vacation here all of the time until they decided to take the plunge. “It’s like the typical thing,” he says. “A lot of people from Ohio move down here.”

Now here for 20 years, Correll has been on the payroll at Alligator Adventure for 18 of those years and is now zoological operations manager there. And this might not have happened if not for the band Green Day. We’re not kidding.

Correll cites Green Day as his favorite band of all time. When he was in the 10th grade, the band was coming to the House of Blues at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach. Correll begged his mom to let him go, but she initially told him he was too young. “I compromised with her and said, ‘well, if I win the tickets on the radio can I go?’ She finally gave in and said yeah, sure – if you win the tickets you could go – thinking that I wouldn’t win them.” He says he listened to the radio for two days straight and won the very last pair of tickets. “To my surprise, the tickets were also a meet-and-greet, so not only did I get to go to the concert, but I also had the opportunity to hang out with Billy Joe [Armstrong] and all of the guys from Green Day – here at Alligator Adventure.”

He and his best friend at the time walked around Alligator Adventure, checked out the animals and hung out with Green Day. He met one of the managers and was ultimately offered a job. “He brought me on as one of the maintenance boys at that time.”

Every year, Correll progressively worked his way up the chain.

“The second and third year, I was assisting the animal staff with their shows plus doing all of my chores as a maintenance guy.” When he graduated from high school, he was offered a position on the animal staff and started doing shows, cleaning up after animals and moving animals back and forth.

“The shows were basically reptile shows where you would bring out a bunch of animals for all of the guests, and do anywhere from a 20 to 40 minute presentation with a microphone. I was also doing alligator feeding shows for hundreds of people – with alligators jumping up out of the water and catching a chicken out of our hands.”

As zoological operations manager, Correll says his duties involve anything and everything that has to do with the park, but focusing primarily on the animals. He typically puts in a 50-hour workweek, but is on call 24/7. “Sometimes I might have to come back up here to take care of an issue,” he says. “It’s not a difficult job and it’s not an easy job. If it weren’t for the staff here and the coworkers that I have the privilege of working with, it definitely could be a lot more difficult.”

And then there’s Utan, aka The King of the Crocs.

“Utan is one of the largest crocodiles in captivity and definitely the largest here in North America - pushing about 18 feet and 2,000 pounds.” The croc turns 50 this year. “He is actually one of the first of his kind. You normally wouldn’t find him existing naturally in the wild because he is a hybrid - a crossbreed between a Siamese crocodile and a salt water crocodile.”

Correll calls Utan a free thought animal. “He has good days and bad days – hungry days and not-so-hungry days.” And he should know because he’s been feeding Utan for 10 years.

“It’s a thrill,” he says. “It is hands down the best part of my job. I believe I enjoy feeding that crocodile more than doing anything else inside Alligator Adventure. Definitely an adrenaline rush.”

For Correll and girlfriend Kerri Quick, Saturdays are what they call their adventure day. “Typically we go out and do something, whether it’s kayaking or going up to the Point in Cherry Grove - or going down to Charleston or Atlanta. We’re always doing something on our adventure day.”

Correll envisions a future that will continue to include Alligator Adventure. “I am a lifer here – and I plan on seeing this job all the way through. I’d eventually, hopefully one day like to move up to being the director of Alligator Adventure,” he says. “It’s family to me, and my home away from home.”

Know of a local with an interesting job or career that should be given the Working 4 A Living treatment? Contact Roger Yale at rgyale@gmail.com.

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