Disney repeatedly warned about ongoing alligator issues before attack, reports say
A Walt Disney World resort near where a 2-year-old was snatched out of the water by an alligator this week was made aware that guests were feeding the reptiles, but ignored repeated requests from staff members to put up a protective fence around the lagoon, according to a published report.
An insider told The Wrap Wednesday that several employees of Disney’s Polynesian Resort Village became concerned about guests feeding alligators over the past 14 months.
According to the individual, guests who stay at the most expensive rooms, called the Bora Bora Bungalows, have access to the wildlife at the Seven Seas Lagoon and commonly feed the alligators that swim in the massive body of water.
The Polynesian Resort Village is next to Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel, where 2-year-old Lane Graves was killed Tuesday night.
“Disney has known about the problem of guests feeding the alligators well prior to the opening of the bungalows,” the person revealed to The Wrap. “With the opening of the bungalows, it brought the guests that much closer to wildlife. Or, the wildlife that much closer to the guests.”
Mike Hamilton, a custodian at the Polynesian Resort Village, told his employer that gators were swimming too close to guests and that a protective fence should be erected to keep them at bay, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Hamilton confirmed to the paper what law enforcement and wildlife officials have repeated the entire week, “There are signs that say, ‘No swimming,’ but no signs that say gators and everything else in this lake.”
Duncan Dickson, a former Disney executive, also told the Sentinel the entire property is intertwined by canals making it difficult to keep alligators out.
“The team attempts to relocate the gators to the uninhabited natural areas as best they can, but the gators don’t understand the boundaries,” Dickson said.
A San Diego man also recalled warning Disney officials about presence of alligators on its property in 2013.
David Hinden, a lawyer, told CBS News Thursday that his family was staying at Disney World’s Coronado Springs Resort, three-and-a-half miles from where Tuesday night’s attack happened.
Hinden said his five-year-old waded calf deep into that resort’s lagoon when he saw a six-foot alligator and grabbed his son and quickly pulled him to safety. He also said he spotted another alligator lurking nearby.
Hiden said he told a hotel manager about the incident and even showed the manager pictures of the gator that was swimming in the lagoon.
"And the response, I couldn't believe it," Hiden said. "It was, 'Those are resident pets, and we've known about them for years. And they're harmless, they're not going to attack anybody.'"
Disney announced Thursday that it would add alligator warning signs around park waters.
Jacquee Wahler, vice president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement that the resort was also "conducting a swift and thorough review of all of our processes and protocols."
Disney's wildlife management system has ensured "that their guests are not unduly exposed to the wildlife in this area," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said during the search for Lane.
Lane’s death was the first by an alligator in Disney World’s 45-year history.
Wildlife officials are still unsure whether they caught the alligator that killed the boy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.