Ashley Lawrence is no stranger to wrestling alligators practically twice her size.
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In fact, it’s miscellaneous the previous Winter Garden resident has done because that years. And also after 10 years of working with alligators, she has come face-to-face with numerous them.
Standing at just 4-foot-11 and also weighing 115 pounds, Lawrence on regular basis wrestles with alligators much larger than her. She also was the mrs star of the pet Planet present “Gator Boys.”
But on Valentine’s job weekend, Lawrence hit another milestone: She came to be the an initial woman to compete in the Freestyle Alligator wrestling Competitions at Brighton field Days.WILDLIFE WARRIOR
Lawrence, 33, began handling wildlife and also educating the public once she was 18 year old, working as a tiger trainer at jungle Island. She carry out wildlife mirrors with tigers, lions and also more.
“That led me to volunteering at an alligator rescue, especially for nuisance alligators,” claimed Lawrence, who currently works in southern Florida. “In the state the Florida, nuisance alligators unfortunately — due to the fact that there space so countless — countless of them room euthanized. It’s sort of sad. The rescue I worked at for about six years, we would bring those alligators to various parks or various zoos and also some of castle would remain at the rescue.”
Those that remained at the rescue were offered for classic Seminole alligator wrestling shows, i beg your pardon Lawrence claimed educated the public about the society of alligator wrestling and alligator safety.
According come Florida Seminole Tourism, alligators and also the Seminole Tribe have a longstanding history. Alligator wrestling as soon as was offered practically, as the tribe recorded them for their hides and meat. They likewise were important throughout ceremonial practices, with the relationship between alligators and the Seminoles being one of respect. They played an integral duty in trade, and eventually, alligators started to serve a new purpose because that the Seminoles — tourism and showmanship.
“The alligator wrestling type of stemmed from them hand-capturing the alligators and also bringing them earlier alive,” Lawrence said. “They didn’t use knives or hooks or weapons: It’s every hand-capture. It’s so unique, and also it’s why it gets so much attention, since it’s something people aren’t supplied to seeing. … It’s really exciting, it gets people’s attention, but likewise we deserve to teach them around alligator safety and also really drive home why it’s so crucial not to feed the alligators.
“That’s among the No. 1 factors why alligators become a nuisance,” she said.
In the early on 2010s, Lawrence was the woman star the the pet Planet show “Gator Boys,” i beg your pardon ran for 5 seasons. It was a fact television series that adhered to two alligator trappers, Paul Bedard and Jimmy Riffle, as they caught nuisance alligators in the Florida Everglades.
“It really gained the nation’s attention about alligator safety and an altering the see of how human being feel about alligators,” Lawrence said. “It readjusted the idea of an alligator being something the is fear to something civilization felt an ext stewardship toward.
“It to be such an significant feeling to see people’s mental change about these alligators,” she said.
Although it bring her innate fame, Lawrence’s favorite aspect of her work is its education component.
“(I’ve had) people who space so afraid of alligators coming as much as me and also telling me they observed them in a various way, and also they might think that them as these pets with colorful lives and also amazing behaviors and learning about how alligators room such maternal animals,” Lawrence said. “It was significant seeing people’s consciousness change about them. It’s a difficult job, but it’s very rewarding.”
And her biggest supporter is she mother, Winter Garden resides Andrea LoCicero-Orr. Although LoCicero-Orr frequently worries around her daughter wrestling animals twice she size, Lawrence claimed her mother is who who constantly has sustained her in her wildlife endeavors.
“She is no a wild-animal wrangler by any type of means, but she definitely allows me to execute what I should do,” Lawrence said. “She is somebody that has constantly supported and also made allowances for she crazy animal-lover daughter.”WRESTLING mrs
When it pertains to alligator wrestling competitions, Lawrence is break stereotypes.
As a petite mrs in a male-dominated field, she continuous proves her skills and showmanship in a means that is respectful come the alligators and also captivating come the crowds. At her size, she said, the core ability that permits her to execute what she walk is understanding pet behavior.
"… It’s an extremely exciting, it gets people’s attention, but additionally we have the right to teach them about alligator safety and really drive residence why it’s so essential not to feeding the alligators." - Ashley Lawrence
“I feel prefer that is the magic behind what it is that ns do,” she said. “Once you know the animal’s drive and also its movements, it allows you to occupational with them in a means that you don’t necessarily have to overpower the gator or pains the animal or anything like that. It’s just a issue of understanding exactly how they move and also what drives them, and also that allows me come work around them.”
Because classic Seminole-style alligator rings doesn’t involve physical damage to the gators or the usage of weapons, it’s also less most likely to rile the pets up — something that helps greatly when gator wrestling.
But despite having wrestled gators because that years, the freestyle alligator wrestling competition Feb. 15 and 16 in Brighton to be Lawrence’s very first official competition. The Seminole tribe purchases nuisance alligators indigenous trappers, and also the gators will have actually one six-minute competition before being retired to tribal floor in the Everglades, she said.
“As somebody who has a deep love and also respect because that these animals, knowing that these animals only have actually six (minutes) in the arena v us professionals and also then they gain to go to freedom, that’s incredibly vital to me,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence stated she had actually no desire to compete until other competitors approached she saying they would certainly be honored if she would be the very first woman come wrestle in the competition. It to be an opportunity to step right into the arena, rest stereotypes and also show young girls and also women the they, too, deserve to do every little thing they’re passionate about.
“There aren’t a lot of women who work with alligators — there’s only a handful of united state — and also there are even fewer tribal females who occupational with alligators,” she said. “When few of the defect wrestlers concerned me and also said, ‘We think it would be a wonderful thing for you come show world that you have what the takes to work-related with this animals, ns think the it could change some hearts and minds about it,’ I assumed it was important.
“I recognize in my love that ns am a human being — not simply a mrs — yet a human being who has actually a job of conservation and respect for the wildlife that Florida and especially alligators, therefore if there was going to it is in a mrs to go into this competition, i thought, ‘Why not me?’” she said.
Her very first competition lasted six minutes, during which she wrestled one 8 1/2-foot alligator that weighed between 150 and 200 pounds. She ended up picking it up in her arms. The second day, she wrestled an alligator measure at the very least 9 feet in length and weighing an ext than 200 pounds. Overall, she placed fifth out that 10 competitors.
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“I definitely come from a location of humility, respect and also knowledge, and I yes, really hope civilization can see that simply by looking in ~ the dimension of me contrasted to these splendid animals,” she said.