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well-being and for the safety of zoo employees, please join us in asking the Toledo Zoo to eliminate cruel and outdated circus-style handling.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