Alligator Warning: Dangers in Foreign Places, Signs or Not

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Avoiding Death by Alligator and Other Tragedies

 

An alligator in Florida. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

An alligator in Florida.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The horrific death of Lane Graves, a toddler visiting Disney in Orlando, serves as a reminder to all travelers to remember customs, and dangers unknown to us, in places we visit. There apparently was ‘no swimming’ signage by the lagoon on the Disney property where the little boy and his dad were wading, but no mention of danger or alligators and no bars on wading or even playing close to the water’s edge. Floridians and those from the other alligator- or crocodile-ridden universes know that where there’s water, there are big reptiles. People from Nebraska—as the little boy and his family were—may well not.

A sign in Sanibel, Fla. warning people not to feed the alligators. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A sign in Sanibel, Fla. warning people not to feed the alligators.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Coming from New York, my own experience with alligators has been limited. I know not to feed them. I know not to approach. I don’t know until a visit to an alligator sanctuary that they can run very fast for short distances. On a visit to Belize, I wonder a bit about the presence of what there are called ‘caymans’—especially when I am near a river, which I am, a lot. In Belize, though, I know to expect danger given that I am staying in a jungle. There are scorpions and big cats and snakes and tree bark that will make your skin itch if you run up against it and all sorts of opportunities for a grand adventure to become an even grander tragedy.

An alligator warning sign in Sanibel, Fla. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

An alligator warning sign in Sanibel, Fla.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Some things you learn after traveling a bit to places not like your home town. I know not to swim in the ocean at dusk because sharks like to feed then; I try not to make a commotion should I see a shark at a distance while I am snorkeling; I try to pay attention when walking in the woods so I can spot snakes and other hazards that are easily disguised. But things could have gone poorly on any number of occasions. So many of us are so far removed from the jungle, or from nature itself, that we overlook—or dismiss—the peril it still poses.

A sign warning that there are crocodiles in a Cancun, Mexico lagoon. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A sign warning that there are crocodiles in a Cancun, Mexico lagoon.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Of course, many travelers, myself included, probably don’t expect nature-related disasters to befall them when they visit touristy areas—Orlando, Cancun, wherever there is plenty of concrete. But wildlife does not necessarily respect human-made barriers, and we will all be well-served to remember that, especially in light of that little boy’s death.

—Lori Tripoli

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