MIAMI: Disney World knew it had an alligator problem long before one of the beasts killed a toddler at the famous resort last year, official data showed Friday.
In the 15 months before an alligator dragged two-year-old Lane Graves underwater on June 14, 2016, 45 of the reptiles were captured on Disney property, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
From the day of the attack until September this year – the latest data available – trappers caught 95 alligators on Disney property.
There was a no swimming sign where Graves was captured while playing on a lakeside beach at a Disney hotel – located across from the Magic Kingdom amusement park – but nothing warning about alligators.
Soon after the attack, Disney put up signs at the lake warning of snakes and alligators. But the measure only works as a deterrent to tourists, since alligators can climb over barriers.
Divers found the boy’s lifeless body the following day in murky water close to where he was taken.
Disney erected a lighthouse statue in his honor, while his parents launched a foundation in his name.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has allowed trappers to remove up to 400 alligators over four feet (1.2 meters) long from Disney facilities until 2023.
Disney World is a massive resort complex that includes several theme parks, water parks, hotels and golf courses.
“When a contracted nuisance alligator trapper removes an alligator, it becomes the property of the trapper. In most cases, the alligator is processed for its hide and meat, which is the primary source of compensation for their services,” explained commission spokeswoman Katie Purcell.
“Occasionally, a nuisance alligator is sold alive to an alligator farm, animal exhibit or zoo. They receive a $30 stipend for each alligator captured.”
Alligators are common in large bodies of fresh water across Florida, home to many swamps, but they rarely attack humans.
In the 1970s, the reptiles were an endangered species and numbered only a few thousand. Today, thanks to conservation efforts, an estimated 1.3 million of them live in the southeastern state. –AFP