In the wake of an alligator killing toddler Lane Graves at a Walt Disney World resort, video has surfaced from 2009 that purportedly shows a Disney employee using a pole to shoo away an alligator from the theme park’s Splash Mountain ride.
But while the footage of an alligator so close to park visitors might seem scary, media coverage has underplayed the much more frightening footage also obtained by Inside Edition -- Disney visitors apparently tossing food to alligators in the water.
Walt Disney World did not immediately confirm that the footage was taken on Disney property. But a Disney employee told People that “some people go as far as to feed them. ‘Oh, there’s an alligator. Let’s give him some of our corndog.'”
And an “insider” told The Wrap that “numerous employees” had complained about Disney guests feeding the reptiles, particularly in the the Bora Bora Bungalows. Those rooms sit on stilts on top of the water of the Seven Seas Lagoon, where Lane Graves was wading when an alligator dragged him into the water.
So why is someone tossing a gator a bit of corndog such a big deal? Doing so can make gators overcome their “natural wariness” of people, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission. Even worse, it can make them associate humans with food and encourage them to approach people.
Alligator tour operator Scott Vuncannon told CNN Saturday that while some people are calling for Disney to eliminate alligators on their grounds, that’s flat-out impossible, given how large Disney’s property is and how resourceful gators are.
“Kind of think of it as a criminal," he said. "If a crook wants to get in, a crook's going to get in. ... There's nothing any theme park can do to stop (an alligator) from getting in."
And such a policy wouldn’t even really make sense. While last week’s attack was horrible, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that a person’s chance of being seriously injured in an unprovoked alligator attack is 1 in 2.4 million, according to National Geographic -- and that’s with more than a million alligators throughout the state.
Instead, people need to continue to follow advice from wildlife experts on how to live peacefully with alligators. And businesses like Disney need to make sure their guests know about the danger from alligators, and crack down on customers doing things -- like feeding the gators -- that can make the animals more dangerous for everyone.