The tragedy of the loss of 2 year old Lane Graves is shedding light on maybe the best kept secret of Disney World. It is filled with alligators. The whole state of Florida is, for that matter. In fact there is 1 alligator for every 20 humans in the state, with a whopping total of 1.25 million.
I lived in the South for 8 years, where the presence of alligators is common knowledge. As their natural habitats are being replaced by human development, it is no surprise that alligator-human interactions are on the rise.
In my time in South Carolina I encountered a few alligators in the wild and heard many stories. Most of the stories were about alligators on golf courses, I guess those water hazards are just too tempting. I encountered an alligator on the beach even though salt water is no friend to alligators. There was a large 8 foot gator that lived in a pond near my condo that I saw many times in my walks through the neighborhood.
There are a few rules that inhabitants of the lowlands of the South know about alligators.
- Don’t run unless you are being chased. (They are fast)
- If you are being chased don’t run in a straight line. They can’t keep an eye on you if you run in a zig-zag formation and you will be able to outrun them. ( It is harder for them to turn to follow you and they will slow down)
- If you live near the water keep your small animals and children away from the water and indoors at night.
Maybe this common knowledge is why you don’t see a lot of warning signs for gators in Disney World or anywhere else in the South for that matter. Maybe because the South is very dependent on its tourist industry, it is not very well advertised.
Since there is a good chance that most of the 53,000 visitors a day to Disney World are not from the South, it is a pretty good chance that they do not have much knowledge of the prevalence and danger of alligators in the area.
And because The Disney theme parks are a $15 billion annual industry apparently Disney has good reason not to advertise this fact.
When accusing someone of being naïve an old saying was “I’ve got some swamp land to sell you in Florida.” Walt Disney, when planning his gigantic theme park saw this as a great way to make his vision a reality with minimum expense. So in 1965, he purchased swamp land in Florida for about $2million– a relative pittance compared to the huge revenues that it has generated. Swampland by definition is filled with a large variety of dangerous animals, including alligators.
The fact that some more remote Disney recreation areas have been abandoned such as Discovery Island makes one wonder if keeping the public safe from these dangers in these areas was a bigger job than Disney could handle.
I guess the secret is out now at the cost of a precious life. It is interesting that immediately after this terrible tragedy warning signs and fences were erected.
Maybe swampland in Florida wasn’t such a good idea after all for a theme park hosting millions of people each year. Maybe Jurassic Park has more truth than fiction in it. No wonder it is not a Disney film property.
Welcome to Disney World –enter at your own risk.