Since at least 2018, a Facebook meme about the U.S.-Mexico border has been shared that claimed: “Louisiana Cajun Navy sends 2,000 gators to Texas to secure the Rio Grande river border.” It was still being posted as of September 2021. At the time, it appeared to be shared in response to then-recent news in regard to thousands of Haitian migrants who were seeking U.S. asylum at the Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas.
The Alligator Meme
After some basic searches, we found that the meme about alligators purportedly being sent at the border was shared by multiple Facebook accounts and pages.
On the Piracy1Radio Facebook page, a user named Carol commented on the post: “Is this TRUE? I never know what is and isn’t anymore.” Bertie added: “[That’s] one way to stop people.” Another commenter named Christina said: “If it’s true, [that’s] awesome.”
The meme was also posted on the Tiger Droppings message board and The Columbian Post Facebook page. The oldest post with the meme that we found was from Nov. 24, 2018. It was captioned with: “The Great State Of Louisiana Sent 2000 Alligators To The Rio Grande!!! 💘 it. #AmericanFirst #Buildthatwall 🇺🇸.”
The meme was not labeled as being satire, nor did we find that it was an old April Fools’ joke. Further, a majority of social media commenters appeared to believe it was genuine news.
Nonpolitical Photograph Becomes Political
While the picture of the alligators was real, the story about the border presented in the meme was not. The misleading and political caption on the picture appeared to be adapted from a nonpolitical news story.
In 2017, Louisiana’s volunteer force known as the Cajun Navy traveled from Louisiana to Texas to help in the recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey. According to The Washington Post, “Houston officials described a vast rescue effort and said about 2,000 people had been brought to safety with more still in need of help.” This might be where the creator of the alligator meme found the number 2,000 to use in the image.
In reality, the photograph showed upwards of 200 (not 2,000) alligators at a giant sinkhole in Florida. The 2017 picture was credited to Lee Dalton, who posted more photographs on Facebook.
‘Terrifying, Yet Breathtaking’
This video shows the picture from the meme as well as aerial footage of the same alligators.
On March 10, 2017, CBS News reported on the “terrifying, yet breathtaking” display of nature:
Only a handful of people were able to make their way through the gates of Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, this week. A limit of 30 people are allowed to visit each day in order to retain the “wilderness experience,” park manager Stephen Giguere told CBS affiliate WTSP in Florida.
It’s a hot and sticky 2-mile hike to get to “Deep Hole,” the 134-foot-deep sinkhole formation that’s about one-third of an acre in size, where the alligators like to hang out. The sinkhole is located at the lower lake of Wilderness Park at Myakka River State Park.
“On a typical day in the dry season you can see 50, 150, 200 alligators,” Giguere said. “They congregate to this area [as it’s the] only deep water left during dry season and a good source of food.”
In sum, the meme falsely claimed that the Louisiana Cajun Navy sent 2,000 alligators to Texas to secure the Rio Grande crossing at the U.S.-Mexico border. The picture in the meme had nothing to do with immigration or politics.
Sources“Dozens of Alligators Attract Hikers at Myakka River State Park.” WTSP.com, 8 March 2017, https://www.wtsp.com/mobile/article/news/local/dozens-of-alligators-attract-hikers-at-myakka-river-state-park/420926938.“Dozens of Alligators Flock to 134-Foot-Deep Sinkhole in Florida.” CBS News, 10 March 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dozens-of-alligators-flock-to-florida-sinkhole/.“Photos Capture Desperation as Haitian Migrants Hope for Asylum at Texas Border.” History, 17 Sept. 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/photos-capture-desperation-as-haitian-migrants-hope-for-asylum-at-texas-border.