Alligator wrestling, an archaic but still common show at tourist attractions in Florida, causes alligators substantial stress, according to a new study by researchers at New York University.

The study, which was published November 13, 2020 in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first empirical study of alligator wrestling in Florida. Researchers reviewed 94 alligator wrestling performances at 15 different venues in Florida, including Everglades Holiday Park (Fort Lauderdale), Jungle Queen (Fort Lauderdale) and Gatorland (Orlando).

“We found that alligator wrestling attractions may be causing systemic welfare harms to the alligators involved with few, if any, environmental conservation payoffs,” the researchers concluded.

In almost every performance wrestlers physically restrained the legs and torsos of alligators, often for as long as five minutes, causing significant stress to the animals. The researchers found wrestlers also forcibly pull alligator’s jaws open, drag alligators around an arena, flip alligators onto their backs, and even poke alligators in their eye sockets. The fact that individual alligators are repeatedly used in performances heightens the animal welfare concerns.

“This important study reinforces our belief that alligator wrestling is cruel and should not be allowed to continue in Florida,” said Nick Atwood, Campaigns Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. “We urge Floridians not to support attractions that feature alligator wrestling, and to ask friends and family members visiting Florida to do the same.”

“Investigating the welfare and conservation implications of alligator wrestling for American Alligators”

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