Blaming victims of animal violence doesn’t solve the problem.

On Tuesday, June 14, tragedy struck at the Walt Disney World hotel in Orlando, Florida when a 2-year-old boy was attacked by an alligator and dragged into the water. Lane Graves’ body was recovered about 16 hours later, only 10 to 15 yards from where the young boy was first attacked.

At the Grand Floridian resort, the Graves family was attending an outdoor movie night. While being watched by his parents, the child waded about a foot into the water when the alligator attacked Lane. Both parents immediately jumped in the water to save their child while the father unsuccessfully attempted to unclamp the alligator’s jaws.

In a situation of such immense tragedy for a family, especially with the devastating shooting Orlando experienced this past week, the overwhelming backlash from the media and the public comes as a surprise to many. A family just lost their child to a natural predator while on vacation where they believed they would be safe, and people have the audacity to blame it on the parents?

It seems as though the Walt Disney Company is largely responsible for this tragedy. For one, people are arguing that there was a “no swimming” sign, but there is a very relevant argument that “no swimming” and “aquatic predator in the water” are two very different warning signs. There are chilling photos going around of other people’s children standing in the same spot in the lagoon where the little Graves’ boy was standing, illustrating that this catastrophe could have happened to anyone.

Why did Disney allow wild, predatory animals to roam freely in areas where they invite hundreds of families to walk by every day? With these predatory animals in close proximity to theme park goers, the possibility of danger exists, so why didn’t Disney warn the families, especially families with small children? Disney spends millions of dollars advertising to families with small children, perhaps money should be allocated to informing families like the Graves from Nebraska, who have no knowledge of alligators. Issuing information to the public about certain precautions to take around these animals while at Disney, could’ve saved a child’s life.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley commented on the occurrences of alligator attacks: “…fortunately it doesn’t happen that often and we are doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t ever happen again.” Would it not have been better to take them out of the water or provide a barrier for the tourists so this would not of happened in the first place? Unfortunately these words offer little comfort to the Graves family, who is grappling with the loss of their son.

Because of this incident, there is a larger argument to be considered: How beneficial is it to keep animals in captivity for tourists to see anyway? Why do we continue to put animals in unnatural habitats for our amusement and then we are surprised when they attack people? We should be able to create environments that are healthy and comfortable for animals like alligators while keeping humans, especially vulnerable young humans, safe.

A similar event happened only a little over a week before when a mother lost track of her child and he fell into the Gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. While it seemed that the gorilla was protecting the child, the animal was eventually shot and killed to guarantee the child’s safety.

There is an almost universal lack of compassion for either of these families. Both families with vulnerable children found themselves in environments they were unfamiliar with and did not know were dangerous. Moving forward we must, as a society, warn and educate people, and take steps to protect both our neighbors and these natural predators.

Sources:

Ellis, Ralph, and Rashard Rose. “Cincinnati Zoo Kills Gorilla to save Child.” CNN. May 29, 2016. Accessed June 18, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/28/us/zoo-kills-gorilla/.

McLaughlin, Eliot C., Joshua Berlinger, Ashley Fantz, and Steve Almasy. “Disney Gator Attack: 2-year-old Boy Found Dead.” CNN. June 16, 2016. Accessed June 18, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/15/us/alligator-attacks-child-disney-florida/.

Snowdon, Kathryn. “Disney World Alligator Attack Sees Child Pulled Into Water At Orlando Resort, Florida.” The Huffington Post. June 15, 2016. Accessed June 18, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/alligator-drags-two-year-old-boy-water-disney-world-resort-orlando_uk_5760fe7de4b0681487dc2b23?edition=uk.

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