Kelby Ouchley



Kelby Ouchley is a biologist/author and managed National Wildlife Refuges for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for 30 years. Since 1995 Ouchley has written and narrated Bayou-Diversity, a popular weekly conservation program for public radio. His three other published books include: Flora and Fauna of the Civil War; the novel Iron Branch; and Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country. Ouchley and his wife Amy live in Rocky Branch, Louisiana.




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American Alligaton: Ancient Predator in the Modern World

"From prehistoric relatives to post-endangered status, Ouchley provides a comprehensive review of the alligator, an iconic southern creature."--Michael K. Steinberg, author of Stalking the Ghost Bird

"The conservation of the American alligator is one of history's best examples of the sustainable-use model for wildlife conservation. The effort to preserve the alligator has contributed to the conservation of wetlands and many other wetland-dependent species throughout its range. Ouchley does an outstanding job of explaining the mysteries of this keystone species."--Robert Barham, Secretary of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

"Kelby Ouchley is part of a generation of wildlife professionals that helped bring the American alligator back from the brink of extinction. He provides fascinating insights into its fight for survival."--Jim Kurth, Chief of National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Having survived since the Mesozoic era, alligators teetered on the brink of extinction in the 1960s. Their recovery in the 1970s was largely due to legislative intervention, and today populations are closely monitored throughout their range.

American Alligator is the most up-to-date and comprehensive treatment of this resilient relic, a creature with a brain weighing less than half an ounce that has successfully adapted to a changing Earth for more than 200 million years.

Kelby Ouchley chronicles the evolution of A. mississippiensis from "shieldcroc"--the last common ancestor of modern-day alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and gavials--to its current role as keystone of the ecological health of America's southern swamps and marshes. In Florida, the apex predator uses its snout and feet to clear muck from holes in the limestone bedrock. During the dry season, these small ponds or "alligator holes" provide refuge, food, and water for a variety of wildlife. In Louisiana, millions of dollars are spent on the bounty of the non-native nutria that overgraze marsh vegetation, but alligators prey on these coastal rodents free of charge.

The loss of the American alligator would be a blow to biodiversity and an ecosystem disruption affecting all levels of the food chain. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed it from the endangered species list in 1987 and today regulates the legal trade of the animal and its products, Ouchley cautions us not to forget the lessons learned: human activities, from urban development to energy production, can still threaten the future of the gator and its southern wetland habitat.



What important or interesting things can readers learn from your book American Alligator: Ancient Predator in the Modern World?
This book is an up-to-date account of the natural and cultural history of the American alligator.  There are many surprising aspects about the life history of alligators that are unfamiliar to most people.  Some have only recently been discovered.  For instance, alligators can orient by the stars, and alligator blood products may soon save human lives.

What motivated you to tell this story?
I was asked to write this story by the Univ. Press of Florida.

What was the most enjoyable part of the process of writing this book?
As a retired professional biologist who worked with alligators for many years, I enjoyed learning new things about alligators during my research.

How do you think this story resonates with Louisiana (culture, readers, history, Louisianans, etc.)?
Louisiana harbors more alligators than any other state, including Florida.  Alligators are embedded in our culture, cuisine, history, literature, and even music.

What excites you about the festival?
I’m excited about the festival because of the great opportunity to get this book in front of a large audience.

What should people look forward to by coming to your presentation at the festival?
People should look forward to learning new and amazing things about the largest predator in Louisiana.


Book-loving volunteers are essential to the Louisiana Book Festival's success. Whether it's escorting authors, guiding visitors, selling refreshments, working with children in the Young Readers Pavilion or other fun and rewarding assignments, the Louisiana Book Festival wants you to join the volunteer team.

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