The tragic life of Belgrade’s Muja, the oldest alligator in the world

A few weeks ago we’ve been busy at home, listening to one of Joe Rogan’s podcasts in the background (wish I could tell you which episode was it exactly, but I can’t remember) and one thing caught my attention.

Rogan, most probably baked as fuck (no judgement here, in fact, I’m sure it does him good), made a comment about crocodiles or/and alligators growing limbs after losing them. Ummm… no. It’s not like this would be the first completely incorrect information he’s presented to his multimillion audience, but since this particular piece of info is close to home and I actually  have the evidence supporting facts, it would be a shame to waste them so here it is.

By the way, reptiles cannot regenerate their lost parts but some amphibians indeed have the ability to grow back their amputated/ripped off limbs, multiple times even. Some Salamanders or Tritons can do it. The Axolotl, an aquatic salamander, can regenerate lost limbs. Salamanders can regrow entire limbs and regenerate parts of major organs etc.

Baby Salamander (photo: Wiki)

In case you’re wondering what is an Axolotl, it’s that cute little amphibian you keep seeing online:

Axolotl (Photo:Wiki)

I took this picture of poor Muja, the alligator that’s been literally pining away, alone, in the Belgrade Zoo since – 1937.  He was brought here from some German Zoo back then, when he was already a young adult, probably 7-8 or maybe even 10 years old.

Muja in Belgrade Zoo
Muja – the oldest alligator in the world

If you do this basic math, it turns out that Muja must be at least 90 years old.

This makes him the oldest alligator in the world, they say.

Muja’s been through 3 different wars/bombings while living in Belgrade. The beginning of the 2nd World War bombing of Belgrade on Easter Sunday 1941, the “ally” bombing at the end of the war in 1944 and he was still there for all 78 days of heavy NATO bombings during summer of 1999.

He’s always lived in the same tiny, filthy puddle in the Zoo. That is his “summer space”. Sometimes there’s no water in it at all. They just painted the concrete blue, so he lays on bare concrete, not moving.

His inside “winter enclosure” is a sewage hole. Like the hippo’s. Barely any room to turn around.

Muja has never moved. I remember, when I was little and had no clear concept of the actual cruelty level of our (or any) Zoo, how during each visit people – adults and kids – would throw shit at him, trying to make him move. He never moved. For a while I thought they just had a stuffed alligator on display there.


I don’t know if it was from all that not-moving in always very filthy dark brown water (when there was any water), but apparently Muja developed gangrene on his front leg (or is it arm?). So they cut it off. And no, it never “grew back”.

I took this photo during one of my last visits to the Belgrade Zoo, probably about 10 years ago. C and I took baby Vanja in a push car and strolled through the Zoo, thinking we are doing something nice for Vanja, who was 2-3 years old and super curious about everything.

All  I can say is – thank god the push car was one of those facing away from the “pusher” ’cause at one point I had an absolute crying meltdown, the kind that made all the other visitors around us quckly shove their kids away from the crazy crying lady. Well fuck them all if I was more disturbing to them then what was captured behind all those glass walls. I just could not take it any more and C took us all out as soon as he could.

I believe the breaking point was, for me, entering the Monkey/Apes Enclosure. It was something from a Dickens’ novel, but worse. There were visitors strolling, giggling, pointing, trying to engage the animals. Except for a couple of small (newly arrived, I assume) types of monkeys, all the other creatures in there looked horrific. Beyond lethargic and just sick.

I took this photo (and put it on Imgur) of what is supposed to be a beautiful Lemur, at the Belgrade Zoo.

This is what a Lemur actually look like

Lemur. Photo credit:

Big chimps sitting, not moving, facing the corners of their rooms, staring at the wall, some were laying down with glazed eyes, one was sitting right in front of the big glass, with his back turned to the visitors, slowly plucking his hair. And there was not much left to pluck, his body was almost completely hairless, all plucked out. But he kept doing it, slowly, like he was, in his thoughts, somewhere far away. Each single magnificent animal I saw was in such state that the first and only thought I had, my biggest hope for them all, was that all of them are not there any more. That all of them lost their minds, that they don’t know where they are, that they all left a long time ago to swing from some lush jungle branches and do whatever they do back home, free.

I hoped that we were looking at some horrible, pathetic, very sick looking shells stuck behind the glass and that all of them are somewhere far away, where they should be. And that’s when I broke down and had an epic crying fit which, luckily, Vanja didn’t see (thanks to the push car facing away).

I hoped the same happened to Muja, the sad, lonely, 3 legged American Alligator, the oldest alligator in the world, literally slowly falling apart in his little puddle, not moving for anyone.

I hoped Muja had actually left decades ago, leaving this shitty body that was rotting away in his literally shitty solitary confinement filth puddle. I hoped that he’s in some buttfuck Florida swampy elderly folks Heaven, eating stray puppies, shootin’ hogs, cooking meth or doing whatever they enjoy doing down there. I hope that decades ago, Muja completely lost his tiny primal mind and that he’s thoroughly enjoying his elderly gator days, surrounded by his buddies and some lady gators, free as a bird. Which he’ll catch and eat any time he pleases.


Even the turtles are doing their best to escape

Photo taken at the Belgrade Zoo, by me (and put on Imgur), a few years ago.



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