Walt Disney World is known for being the epitome of magical experiences and joyful memories.
Amongst the magical day-to-day, it’s easy for tourists to forget that the sprawling resort actually sits right in the heart of what used to be swampland, and many of its residents, including the American Alligator, avoided evictions when Mickey Mouse came to town.
Florida’s sub-tropical climate, high humidity, and beautifully designed landscapes make it the perfect place for exciting amphibious reptiles to take up shelter.
As Central Florida, where Walt Disney World is located, acts as a gateway to one of the last wild frontiers of the state, the Florida Everglades, it isn’t uncommon to have run-ins with wildlife all over Disney World, including Magic Kingdom and its numerous resort locations.
Sadly, most memorable, a fateful incident in 2016 brought attention to the presence of alligators in the vicinity of one of these resorts.
Since that day, savvy guests have had the presence of dangerous reptiles seared into the back of their minds, and Disney has taken steps along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to create a more sustainable future for tourism to live in harmony with the abundant wildlife that calls Walt Disney World home.
The Lane Graves Tragedy
In June 2016, tragedy struck when two-year-old Lane Graves was attacked and killed by an alligator near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
This unfortunate incident sent shockwaves through the community and prompted Disney to embark on several initiatives to enhance safety protocols and prevent such incidents in the future.
After the incident, Walt Disney World took immediate action to prioritize the safety of its guests while maintaining the enchanting atmosphere that has made it beloved worldwide. The resort implemented the following safety measures:
Disney erected permanent rope fixtures and barriers around the water bodies within the resort to restrict access to guests and wild animals, reducing the chances of accidental encounters.
Increased Signage and Warnings:
Clear and visible signage was placed throughout the resort, reminding guests of the potential presence of wildlife in the area and providing safety guidelines to follow.
Wildlife Monitoring and Awareness:
Disney established a dedicated team of wildlife specialists responsible for monitoring the wildlife population within the resort and ensuring the safety of both animals and guests. They work closely with local authorities and experts to remain updated on wildlife behavior and implement necessary precautions.
Disney World followers got to see this team in action recently when a black bear, another common Florida species that can be dangerous, was spotted in the Frontierland area of Magic Kingdom, prompting an entire shutdown of most of the park for around half a day.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts:
Walt Disney World has a longstanding commitment to wildlife conservation and environmental stewardship. They actively engage in several initiatives to safeguard the natural habitat and promote biodiversity. Here are some examples:
Conservation and Research Programs:
The Walt Disney Company supports various conservation and research programs dedicated to protecting and preserving wildlife. These initiatives aim to understand animal behavior better, promote habitat restoration, and raise awareness about the importance of conservation.
Wildlife Education and Awareness:
Disney incorporates educational elements into its theme parks and resorts to raise awareness among guests about the importance of wildlife conservation and the need to respect natural habitats. Through informative displays and interactive experiences, visitors understand the interconnectedness between humans and wildlife.
Still, Guests Ignore the Dangers of the American Alligator at Walt Disney World
Despite exhaustive efforts to educate guests regarding the potential dangers lurking in waterways around Walt Disney World, like Seven Seas Lagoon, where the Lane Grave incident occurred, some guests ignore the danger and enter bodies of water around the property anyhow.
Most recently, a guest to Magic Kingdom reportedly jumped from the rafts that carry visitors to Tom Sawyer Island, while another at EPCOT jumped from one of the bridges in the World Showcase.
A quick search online, specifically on YouTube, reveals several videos of Walt Disney World guests fishing dangerously close to the lakes and ponds that scatter around the property, while some even show daring visitors swimming.
It’s hard to imagine anyone willing to enter a body of water that could have a 920-lb alligator lurking below. However, whether it be stupidity or ignorance, it does still happen around Walt Disney World.
Another Reminder to Stay Out of the Lakes at Disney World
If you’ve been to Walt Disney World enough, chances are you’ve had your fair share of wildlife encounters. It isn’t uncommon for Grand Floridian Resort guests to run across a variety of slithering serpents or for guests aboard the Disney Skyliner, boat service, or even the Monorail to spot alligators from their high vantage point.
Although it certainly isn’t news that the American Alligator calls Florida home, it’s never a bad idea to continue educating the public, especially travelers unfamiliar with the state of Florida and its wildlife, when it comes to a possible encounter with an alligator at Walt Disney World.
It seems that some people are convinced that gators (affectionately nicknamed by locals) are more myth and reality for some guests. Still, one image shared to Reddit recently suggests that they are certainly out and about at Disney, reinforcing to guests that they should adhere to Disney’s rules about entering their waterways.
User u/daveoski posted a clear photo to the Walt Disney World subreddit, a beautifully captured one of a scaly lizard hunting the surface near the campgrounds at Fort Wilderness Resort.
“Took the boat from MK to the campgrounds for a hoop dee doo reservation and was able to capture some pictures.”
This particular alligator was spotted hanging around the Fort Wilderness Campground area, a very popular resort that many Disney World guests enjoy during the holiday season in Florida.
Fort Wilderness, although not a monorail resort like Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, is close to Magic Kingdom, a place full of small children and families enjoying magical experiences throughout their day.
Learn From Past Alligator Experiences at Walt Disney World and Stay on Dry Land
The gator attack incident at Walt Disney World in 2016 was a tragic event that led to increased safety measures and a renewed focus on wildlife conservation.
Ultimately changing the lives of Melissa Graves and Matt Graves forever, the loss of their young son, Lane Thomas Graves, should serve as a reminder that although Disney World is a magical place, it is not immune to accidents and danger.
Walt Disney World remains committed to providing guests with a safe and magical experience while demonstrating responsible stewardship of the environment.
By continuously evaluating and improving safety protocols and actively participating in wildlife conservation efforts, the Resort ensures that the enchanting world of Disney harmoniously coexists with the natural wildlife that calls it home.
In the event of an alligator sighting, guests are advised to immediately report it to the nearest Disney Cast Member and follow all safety guidelines provided.
As per Disney World rules and regulations, signs are clearly posted showing the immediate dangers of wildlife and the risk they pose to guests. There is a reason that Disney does not allow free-swimming in their waterways, and alligators are big part of that, so, stay dry!