Alligators deemed “harmless” after a previous incident involving another child.
On Memorial Day weekend, we covered the accident with Harambe that led to the shooting of a rare gorilla to protect a boy who fell into the Cincinnati’s zoo enclosure.
Now, in time for Father’s Day, there is troubling news related to the awful death of Lane Graves. The 2-year old was attacked by an alligator at the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon located across the lake from the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld.
As an environmental health and safety professional, a key element of risk assessment is “reasonable anticipation.” For example: Can you reasonably anticipate that a wild predator poses a risk to small children?
Most people would answer, “Yes”. However, officials at the resort seemingly treated the creatures as another fun attraction.
Disney World was warned about the alligator problem in its Seven Seas Lagoon but looked the other way because high-paying guests enjoyed feeding the creatures, a report has claimed.
Management had been warned by park staff that guests at the $2,000-a-night waterfront Bora Bora Bungalows were feeding the alligators, but ignored requests to build protective fences, a park insider said, according to TheWrap.
“Disney has known about the problem of guests feeding the alligators well prior to the opening of the bungalows,” the insider told the news site.
“With the opening of the bungalows, it brought the guests that much closer to wildlife. Or, the wildlife that much closer to the guests.”
There was a near miss earlier that should have triggered management to take corrective measures, such as posting warning signs, putting up barriers, and prohibiting the feeding of alligators. However, the incident was dismissed, because the alligator’s were deemed “harmless”.
A year before an alligator killed a 2-year-old boy at a Disney resort in Florida, a concerned father was told by theme park officials that the gators were “harmless” following a terrifying close call with his own son.
David Hiden recalled how he saw alligator approaching as his 5-year-old son enjoyed himself in calf-deep water behind their hotel in April of last year.
“I saw something rapidly coming on like a submarine,” the San Diego resident told CBS News. “And I look and I went, ‘Oh my god. That’s an alligator.’ And it was probably about six to seven feet.”
This situation is indicative of a disturbing trend of culture-makers elevating nature and minimizing humans. The deadly attributes of fierce and wild animals are minimized to the point that people do not recognize that they and their children are actually viewed as prey.
Additionally, wild animals exposed to humans become habituated to them, which reduces the “threat” that the creatures feel from mankind. This further places everyone at risk.
Sadly, Disney only now has recognized the hazards the alligators posed and has posted warning signs.
“We are conducting a swift and thorough review of all of our processes and protocols,” Walt Disney World Resort Vice President Jacquee Wahler said in a statement Thursday. “This includes the number, placement and wording of our signage and warnings.”
A legal expert opines that the family would be within its right to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Disney.
“The Walt Disney Corp. has a duty to warn their hotel guests of any dangers that they either know about or should know about,” said Matt Morgan, an Orlando attorney who has sued theme parks in the state for negligence.
For Lane’s family to have a case against Disney, attorneys would have to prove the theme park knew there were alligators in the water at the resort’s Seven Seas Lagoon. “If Disney had knowledge that there were alligators in the lagoon and did not take steps to inform their guests of such dangers, then they could be liable,” Morgan said Thursday. The attorney did not provide a dollar amount for a possible lawsuit.
If guests were alerted about the alligators, Lane’s life might have been saved. “It’s heartbreaking to think that this tragedy could have been prevented if Disney would have warned their guests and taken safety measures,” Morgan said.
If the new reports are accurate, there should be a very strong case against Disney.
However, no amount of money will bring Lane back. Let’s hope his death has not been in vain and that business executives learn that predators cannot be treated like pets. They must protect their patrons accordingly.
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