A Florida zoo keeper had his hand bitten off during a routine interaction with one of his own alligators due to an errant leaf.
Greg Graziani, wildlife director of Florida Gator Gardens in Venus and an alligator veteran of 46 years, had his wrist chomped on August 17, the park reported on its Facebook page.
Graziani was using his hand under the alligator’s jaw to give it a command when the wind blew a leaf between himself and the beast, severing essential eye contact that triggered the predator to lunge forward and bite.
‘Lack of visibility was the problem,’ Graziani told CNN. ‘There was no malice.’
The creature pulled back on his arm, crushing and twisting it instinctively, until it responded to a command and released its death grip.
‘Had this been a totally wild alligator with no training, it would’ve been a lot worse,’ he said. ‘This was an occupational hazard, not a public safety issue,’ he added.
In their efforts to save the mangled appendage that was dangling by just one tendon, surgeons had to untwist it six times during emergency surgery.
At first the arm was partially amputated and reattached, but eventually they realized it was beyond saving.
‘Crushing injuries and avulsions are the hardest injuries to reattach and we had all of it,’ Gator Gardens wrote.
Shocking X-rays showed the hand completely broken off from the wrist, and they even pumped leaches into the wound to try and keep the blood flowing.
Last Thursday August 25 the hand was amputated below the elbow to save his forearm and reroute nerves in such a way as to preserve the possibility of prosthetics at very top of technological advancements and innovations.
‘As great as it would have been to preserve the hand, we are thrilled to finally have a date to go home next week and move forward with all of the amazing projects we have been pouring our hearts into these last couple of years,’ wrote the facility.
It is not the first time Graziani has diced with limb loss via his beloved alligators.
He has worked with the creatures since he was seven years old and in 2013 he nearly lost his other arm after it became entangled in a rope attached to an alligator and the creature went into a death roll that took Graziani with it.
The injury needed 18 months to fully recover, but he ‘only came back more determined to share his passion for reptiles with the world,’ said Florida Gator Gardens.
Graziani is looking forward to returning to work with the intelligent apex predator, he told CNN, although he will have to adapt to the limitations of only having one hand.
He emphasized that the animals work on instinct and bear no malice for those that they hurt.
‘Living with these guys is definitely something that can be done safely,’ he said.
Graziani said his teams planned a thorough review of protocols to prevent further incidents and keep staff safe.
The alligator in question will ‘continue to stay here with us as a valued member of the zoo,’ the facility said.
‘Every time we work with any of our animals, we never fail to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.
‘We are working with an animal where collaboration and training between species is something that is taught, and it usually goes against quite a few natural instincts.
‘This is true for all of them- from the nuisance alligators down even to our terrier.
‘Every animal is given a level of respect and acknowledgement for their power, behavior, natural instincts, and training.’
This article by Walter Finch was first published by The Daily Mail on 1 September 2022. Lead Image: Alligator trainer Greg Graziani, 53, had his hand bitten off by one of his own alligators during a routine interaction.
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