This week saw reports of a two-year-old boy dragged into the water by an alligator at Disney World, Florida. A family of five had travelled from Nebraska to have the holiday of a lifetime. Unfortunately for this family, every parent’s worst nightmare of outliving their child has come true.

The Graves family were by the water’s edge at the Seven Seas Lagoon on Tuesday evening. At roughly 9PM the alligator emerged from the water and seized the toddler. His Dad then did what any other parent faced with this unfathomable situation would do, and grappled with the alligator in an attempt to save his child.

On Thursday morning, a Diver found Lane Graves’ body immersed under six feet of murky water, ten to fifteen yards from where he was dragged. It was determined that he had died from drowning. The loss of this little boy’s life is tragic.

Once again the good people of the world have taken to their keyboards to give their expert opinion on this devastating situation. They are holding Disney World Resort responsible, stating that there was very little warning signs on the beach.

Others are stating that it is solely at the fault of the parents who allowed their child near the water. In reality, the loss of an innocent life was down to a series of fuck ups, much like the controversial case of the Silverback Gorilla, Harambe, who was killed after a four-year-old had gone into his enclosure.

Four other alligators were killed during the search in Seven Seas Lagoon to find the wild animal that had taken the child into the lake. According to Sheriffs in Florida, it is, “not possible to examine [the alligators] when they’re alive.”

Where is the uproar of the murder of these wild animals lives? Where are the irrational campaigns to have the parents charged with negligence? Where is the mourning for these animals lives? Where’s the petition to save the alligators? Once again we’ve nailed our ability to demonstrate selective compassion when it suits us best.

florida alligator
Let’s face it, Tarzan wasn’t going to be raised by alligators

We have a severe prejudice towards the animals we want to save. There was an outcry for justice when Harambe was killed in his own home. Gorillas are sentient animals and mimic human behaviours. They understand sign language and have similar facial features. They are often portrayed as nurturing and protective within the media. Tarzan told the tale of the loving gorilla, Kala, who took baby Tarzan in as her own and raised him with the band.

Alligators and crocodiles are rarely portrayed as cute and fluffy, and often vilified in the media. In the film The Rescuers Down Under, Brutus and Nero are Madame Medusa’s evil pets. Alligators try and eat Tiana and Naveen in The Princess and The Frog. They hide in dark murky waters where we can’t see them. As a race, we are scared of these strong animals. But that does not mean we have free reign to kill every cold-blooded reptile because we are afraid.

It is a well-known fact that Crocodiles and Alligators have occupied the planet for 85 million years. According to Science and History writer Brian Switek, these cold-blooded creatures are “a much more diverse and disparate group of creatures that goes back to the Triassic.” We can’t even conceive of that kind of time scale.

No, no, these are the bad alligators

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states there are now 1.3 million wild alligators inhabiting swamps, rivers, lakes and ponds across Florida. As of 2014, the population people living in Florida had reached 19.89 million people, an increase of 18.968 million since 1915.  Humans have killed and tortured reptiles for fashion, food and sport since the 1800s. We’ve tortured, maimed and murdered them for entertainment shows such as Swamp Hunters.

Being killed by an alligator is extremely rare. Since 1948 there have been 23 reported fatalities involving alligators in Florida and 383 non-fatal bites. According to the Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting, 35,235 alligators were killed in 2004 alone by hunters in Louisianna. The Chinese Alligator can only be found in swamps around the Yangtze River, in China is an endangered animal due to extermination by humans and environmental pollution.

The similarities between the Harambe incident and this one are fascinating; both involved parents with an extremely young child near a wild animal’s habitat, and both ended in that animal’s demise. In Harambe’s case he was humanised as an “innocent, peaceful gorilla”, but no such luck for the far less sympathetic #Floridagator.

It’s time we realised that we aren’t the only species on the planet and treated the habitats of dangerous animals with respect.

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