A Florida wildlife expert just survived his second alligator attack in a decade, but he did not come out of it in one piece.
An X-ray shared by Florida Gator Gardens shows the alligator crushed the lower arm of Greg Graziani, the park’s director of wildlife. The park is in Venus, 125 miles southeast of Tampa.
Graziani was flown to Tampa General Hospital, where doctors found his hand dangling from one “tendon and some muscle that the surgeon had to untwist 6 times,” the park wrote on Facebook.
The surgery lasted nine hours, and ended with “a below the elbow amputation preserving half of his forearm,” the park said.
“Any time you work with animals, there is always a risk. That is something Greg and the people who love him have always accepted,” the park wrote. “This incident could have just as easily been a fatal tragedy.”
Details are vague on how and why 53-year-old Graziani was bitten.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it happened around 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at the park, which is “a licensed captive wildlife facility.” The commission is “actively investigating” the incident, officials said.
Florida Gator Gardens says Graziani was bitten “during a routine interaction with our large alligators.”
It is the second time an alligator broke one of his arms. The first involved a 7.5-foot female “nuisance” gator that Graziani trapped and removed from someone’s property in 2013, according to the post on Graziani’s Facebook page.
The alligator was tied and stored in a horse trailer when it suddenly went into a roll, trapping Graziani’s arm in a rope and snapping the bones in multiple places. His then-12-year-old son had to cut him free from the alligator, the post says.
It took nearly 18 months for his arm to heal.
“After almost losing his right arm in 2013, he only came back more determined to share his passion for reptiles with the world,” Florida Gator Gardens wrote. “He has assured us that this (latest incident) is no different. Even through the pain and heavy medication, he is still preaching his reptile education to nurses, doctors, and visitors alike.”
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Graziani plans to return to his job at Florida Gator Gardens, and will “move forward with all of the amazing projects we have been pouring our hearts into these last couple of years,” park officials said.
As for the alligator that bit him, it will be there, too.
“He was uninjured and will continue to stay here with us as a valued member of the zoo,” park officials said.