Two weeks after an alligator attack left him severely wounded, the director of a wildlife park in Venus, Florida, underwent surgery to amputate one of his arms below the elbow. Greg Graziani, who operates a facility called Florida Gator Gardens where alligators are bred and trained, was “seriously injured during a routine interaction” with one of the park’s large reptiles, according to a Facebook post shared to the facility’s official page.
“Every time we work with any of our animals, we never fail to acknowledge the gravity of the situation,” the post read. “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.”
Graziani, now 53, has worked with alligators since age 7, the wildlife park wrote on Facebook, adding that he nearly lost his right arm a decade ago but “came back more determined to share his passion for reptiles with the world” after recovering. During the recent attack on Aug. 17, the park said that Graziani underwent “a partial amputation of his left arm” before he was transported to Tampa General Hospital for further treatment.
A nine-hour surgery to reattach the limb seemed successful at first, but Florida Gator Gardens confirmed in a Facebook update on Aug. 26 that Graziani had undergone “a below elbow amputation preserving half of his forearm” the previous night.
“It was clear that the hand was simply not able to recover,” the park said in its recent post, noting that “the accident was an extreme injury that left Greg’s hand connected by one tendon” and could have “easily been a fatal tragedy.”
Updates shared by Florida Gator Gardens on social media did not provide details about the incident that led to Graziani’s injury, but a representative from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told CBS News that it received a call reporting “a possible alligator bite incident” at a “licensed captive wildlife facility” around 7:30 p.m. local time on Aug. 17. The agency confirmed that it then responded to the incident, and an injured 53-year-old man was transported to the hospital from the scene. The incident is currently under investigation by the commission.
Alligators are found in coastal wetlands across the southeastern U.S., from North Carolina to Texas, with a few thousand found in Florida, according to the National Wildlife Federation. They can grow to be more than 12 feet in length and weigh up to 1,000 pounds. A report by the Florida conservation commission last year found that 442 unprovoked alligator bites were recorded in the state between 1948 to 2021, and 26 of them were fatal. Serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida, according to the commission.
The alligator involved in the incident “was uninjured and will continue to stay here with us as a valued member of the zoo,” the park posted.