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Dickerson Park Zoo Scene of Gruesome Death

Written by Chrissy Matthies | October 11, 2013

PETA is calling on Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, to shutter its deadly and cruel elephant exhibit after an elephant attack this morning left senior zookeeper John Bradford dead.

A Legacy of Misery

It’s no surprise that the elephant, Patience, lashed out after years of stress-inducing, unnatural imprisonment. Patience had been taken from her family when she was captured from the wild. She was shipped to the U.S. and then moved from zoo to zoo. She is now confined to a tiny 1.5-acre enclosure, unable to travel more than a few yards, let alone the 30 miles a day that she might have walked with her mother, aunts, and other family members, had she not been kidnapped from her home and deprived of their company.

Not only did Patience have her freedom taken from her, her son was also stolen from her when he was only 18 months old. Elephants are sensitive and careful mothers, nursing their children until they are at least 5 years old. Males stay with their mothers until they reach adolescence, and females stay with their mothers for life. Patience doesn’t know that her baby died six months after being shipped off to Six Flags.

Culture of Death

John Bradford is one of many who have died in Dickerson Park Zoo’s substandard and unsafe elephant exhibit. Of 10 baby elephants who have been born at the zoo, only two are still alive today. Many died after contracting EEHV, a deadly herpes virus that is virtually unknown in the wild and has been linked to the stress of captivity. And at least one was abused: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fined the zoo for abusing one elephant with a bullhook—a sharp metal-tipped weapon that resembles a fireplace poker and is routinely used to keep elephants “in line.”

Bradford’s death was wholly preventable, had the zoo left Patience with her herd as nature intended. It also would not have occurred if the zoo had handled Patience only in protected contact—the safer, more humane management system used by all reputable sanctuaries and zoos. PETA is calling on the USDA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the incident.

You Can Help

Contact Dickerson Park Zoo and demand that it close its elephant exhibit and send Patience and the three other remaining elephants to a reputable sanctuary. Never go to a zoo or circus in which elephants are abused for “entertainment.”

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  • Kathleen Wirt says:

    No zoo has enough land for even one elephant, and further more, elephants should never be separated from their families or friends. There should be a law that they cannot be kept captive in an area that is smaller than 40 acres.

  • mandi says:

    close the zoo.

  • Raquel Iglesias says:

    Elephants don´t belong in jail!

  • Sue Wise says:

    As it says this is a culture of death. There is no excuse for intelligent people to mistreat Elephants in the way you house and treat them. Please review your practices of housing and treatment of these beautiful intelligent animals. We too are animals. I repeat there is no excuse for cruelty

  • Craig Destephanis says:

    Please investigate the I humane practices at this zoo.

  • danielmartinez590 says:

    that was expected has happened because you can not tame any animal if taken away from their young because worse is going to reveal to anyone that this is no

  • Claudia maier says:

    please help put an end to the suffering of these innocent elephants. they deserve a life of freedom and comfort not abuse and neglect of all things natural and safe.Show your campasion, shut the zoo down!!

  • Douglas Smith says:

    Ms Stephens, I would like to begin by stating that I am not a tree hugger and do not support PETA blindly. As a human ( and humane ) physician I recognize the need for using animals in research with apprpriate veterinary oversight. Sadly, you miss the point entirely. You are a strong proponent of the quality of care at this zoo. Great, BUT IT IS A PLACE OF CAPTIVITY, not a natural environment, I assume that during your veterinary education somebody pointed out the role of stressors to the psyche, elephant or otherwise. I find it appalling that someone purportedly interested in the wellfare of animals could be so short sighted. Perhaps this is the difference between large animal veterinary medicine and small animal medicine. Empathy.

  • Awsumniss says:

    You guys are idiots

  • Dixie Lee says:

    So sad. We know too much about elephants in this era – the 21st Century. We know better. Please read Caitlin O’Connel’s The Elephants’Secret Sense. So sad for the man and the elephant. This did not need to happen!

  • Anna Tangi says:

    It is time to close your elephant exhibit and send Patience and the three other remaining elephants to a reputable sanctuary. No creature should endure a life of misery, especially for the entertainment of mankind. It’s time to let them live!

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