Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa isn’t supposed to be a dangerous place. Yet two-year-old Lane Graves was killed by an alligator earlier this week–attracting even more unwanted attention to the Orlando area. And one wildlife expert is speaking out about the role tourists might have played in the alligator attack.
Kenneth Krysko is the herpetology collections manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History. He’s an expert on alligators and crocodiles. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, he raised questions about the safe haven created by the idyllic Disney surroundings.
Tourists, Krysko suggests, would be enthralled by the presence of gators, and feed them or watch them in a way that would desensitize the alligators. Like bears, an alligator that doesn’t have a natural fear of humans is very dangerous.
Krysko believes tourists have been feeding the gators in Disney’s Seven Seas Lagoon. If this is true, the gators would associate humans with food.
“That’s the big problem. It loses its natural fear of humans when that happens. It goes up to humans, sees a child, and that’s the first thing it takes. That’s the sole reason why it’s illegal to feed an alligator in the wild.”
Lane Graves was reportedly ankle deep in the water on the shore’s edge, when the gator attacked.
While the problem isn’t exclusively the domain of tourists, locals know more about the dangers of alligators. Many avoid shorelines during prime feeding times–early mornings and late evenings.
Krysko says alligators are second nature for Florida’s general population, so much so that “many small bodies of water lack posted warnings.”
The Disney World hotel had a “No Swimming” sign on the beach, but nothing to prevent anyone from feeding the feeding the gators or getting into the water. The death has drawn so much attention to the problem that Disney is now reacting in the opposite direction, closing beaches and putting up signage.