Written by PETA
Elephant advocates are celebrating a new policy by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The policy requires that all AZA-accredited facilities prohibit staff and elephants from being in the same space, with some limited exceptions, by September 2014. This means that elephants in zoos will be protected from handlers (and the abusive instruments they wield) and vice versa.
There are two basic styles of managing captive elephants–‘protected contact’ and ‘free contact. With protected contact, there is always a barrier between handlers and elephants, which is not only more humane but also much safer for both species. In "free contact," the handler is always armed with a sharp, metal-tipped bullhook that they use at will to strike elephants, and elephants know what will happen when they see the bullhook coming. Although the new policy does not require full protected contact, as it has exceptions for things like required health and welfare procedures, it is a giant step in the right direction.
PETA has agitated for protected contact for more than a decade, back to the time when Sissy, an elephant at the El Paso Zoo, snapped under the pressure of captivity and attacked her handler. Allowing trainers armed with bullhooks to be in close proximity to captive elephants can go horribly wrong.
Over the past 20 years, captive elephants in the U.S. have killed 15 people and injured more than 135, often the result of rampages by elephants who have had one beating too many. No deaths and only one injury (from disregarded protocol) have occurred at zoos that use protected contact.
Written by Michelle Sherrow
Bullhooks are heavy batons with a sharp metal hook and point on the end. If someone routinely smacked you with one, wouldn't you eventually fight back? Video footage taken at the Toledo Zoo shows that a young elephant named Louie did just that: He charged his bullhook-wielding keeper, leaving him hospitalized with serious injuries. In the video, Louie is shown backing away when he sees keeper Don RedFox approaching him with a bullhook. Louie then turns around and charges at RedFox after RedFox jabs him with the implement.
The Toledo Zoo still uses the archaic free-contact elephant-handling system. In free contact, elephants are dominated and punished with force, and that puts keepers at constant risk. The zoo's use of the free-contact system has previously been discussed in Toledo. The zoo failed to act on a July 8, 2005, "Lucas County Commissioners Special Citizens Task Force for the Zoo Final Report" that confirmed that keepers have been injured under the current free-contact system. Now we are asking the zoo's board of directors to allow us to bring in a team of elephant experts who can train zoo staff to eliminate the use of bullhooks and transition to a protected-contact system, which more than half the accredited zoos in the country already use.
For the elephants' well-being and for the safety of zoo employees, please join us in asking the Toledo Zoo to eliminate cruel and outdated circus-style handling.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.