Don't Mess with Elephants

The St Louis Zoo was one of the pioneers in protective contact handling of the elephants. The old time elephant keepers, at the time almost exclusively male, called themselves "testoterone" men. They were. Elephants can kill people so easily, even with the whipping of the tail, flick of those huge ears, obviously charging and or stepping on keepers. Long ago they devised a way of managing the elies without getting into the enclosures.

I don't know what happened at the Dickerson Park Zoo, but very scary for a 62 year old keeper who had handled those elies for 39 years to be killed in the enclosure.

This is the zoo that had Onyx, a huge bull elephant. Long ago 2 of our female elephants took a road trip to Dickerson Park in Springfield, Mo to be bred. It was successful with Pearl, not with Carolyn. Raja was born, our bull who has sired quite a few little elies.

Elephant kills Missouri zookeeper; will not be euthanized

Courtesy of City of Springfield
'Patience' the elephant at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri

By Tracy Connor, Staff Writer, NBC News
An elephant named Patience killed a zookeeper in Missouri on Friday morning, and officials said the animal won't be disciplined.
John Phillip Bradford, 62, the manager of the elephants at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, was working with several other zoo employees in the animal barn when it happened, city spokeswoman Cora Scott said.
After initially saying the elephant "charged" the zookeeper, she later clarified that witnesses said Patience "made a sudden movement."
No details were given about exactly what Bradford was doing or how he was injured. Police and medics were called to the zoo, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Courtesy of City of Springfield
Zoo keeper John Bradford

"No disciplinary action will be taken with the animal. The animal will not be euthanized," the city said in a statement.

Bradford had worked at the zoo for 30 years and was a senior zookeeper, Scott said. Patience is a 41-year-old Asian elephant.
"It's a very devastating time for our zoo family," Scott said, adding that the zoo is "well-known and well-run."
Last week, the zoo's veterinarian euthanized another elephant, known both as Connie and Pinky, who had been suffering from kidney disease and had lost nearly 1,000 pounds.
Officials said zookeepers had been keeping a close eye on Patience and another female elephant in the wake of the matriarch's death.
In an interview last year, another Dickerson employee, Lee Hart, told the public radio station KSMU that working with elephants had inherent risks.

"I've heard people describe them as being teenagers for life. They're always trying to see how much they can be mischievous, and, due to the large size, it makes them extremely dangerous just for that aspect," he said.
"But, if you put yourself in a bad spot in the barn or in the yard you just potentially, you know, put yourself in harm's way."
But Ed Hansen of the American Association of Zoo Keepers said deaths are "extremely rare" in American zoos "because of the safety features in place."
Dickerson had a policy of "protected contact" between Patience and her handlers, said Scott, who could not immediately provide details.
That generally means some type of barrier or restraint is used at all times, Hansen said. But even with those precautions, an interaction can be dangerous.
"You're talking about an animal that weighs between four and five tons even the shifting of body weight can cause injury or death," Hansen said. "Even coming into contact with a trunk carries significant risk."