Saturn was hatched in the U.S. in 1936, and wound up being gifted to the Berlin zoo shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, within a few years, the U.S. and Germany would be at war with each other.
Between November 22-23, 1943, Berlin was under siege by allied bombing raids, with explosives raining down on the city, including the central-west Tiergarten district, where the zoo was located. Indeed, bombs certainly struck the zoo, including at least one at the facility’s aquarium. Human survivors reported seeing dead crocodiles in the streets, their bodies having been launched out of their enclosures and into the street.
Though many of the zoo’s animals and thousands of the city’s human population died in the bombing, Saturn somehow miraculously survived. Also unclear is how he survived the next three years, in a war-ravaged city in a climate that doesn’t favor alligators.
By July of 1946, he’d wound up in a zoo in Moscow, where he would spend the next several decades.
Вчера утром наш миссисипский аллигатор Сатурн умер от старости. Ему было около 84 лет – крайне почтенный возраст. Московскому зоопарку выпала честь содержать Сатурна 74 года. Он видел многих из нас детьми. Надеемся, что мы его не разочаровали. pic.twitter.com/UigsB8xwBv
— Московский Зоопарк (@moscowzoo) May 23, 2020
The zoo noted that, during his life in the facility, his personality was on full display. He loved being massaged with a brush. When he was surly, he could crack steel feeding tongs and pieces of concrete with his teeth.
The zoo notes that the reptile got to witnesses his handlers age along with him.
“For us Saturn was an entire era, and that’s without the slightest exaggeration… He saw many of us when we were children. We hope that we did not disappoint him,” the zoo said.
Saturn was also the subject of a juicy rumor, albeit a thoroughly untrue one. Legend had it that the gator was a part of Adolf Hitler’s personal menagerie, although the Moscow zoo insists that that is not true.
“[Animals] do not belong to politics and mustn’t be held responsible for human sins,” the zoo said of the rumor.
Zoo officials plan to stuff the alligator and put him on permanent display in a Moscow biology museum named for Charles Darwin.
With Saturn gone, the title of the world’s oldest known living alligator is up for grabs. One candidate might be Muja, a gator in his 80s who is still alive and well and living at Belgrade Zoo in Serbia.
Mississippi alligators such as Saturn generally live about 30-50 years in the wild.