The video of what happened to Don RedFox when he was injured by Louie the elephant at the Toledo Zoo back on July 1 was released to the media today – most of our local media has a copy of the video on their websites, FOX Toledo as one example. Earlier today I received an e-mail from David W. Perle. Senior Media Coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with a statement on the release of the video:
The video of the attack on a keeper at the Toledo Zoo demonstrates that the use of the old-style free-contact system to handle elephants at the zoo is downright dangerous. Dominating and punishing elephants by striking these animals with bullhooks—a device that resembles a fireplace poker—puts keepers at constant risk of injury or death and raises serious animal welfare concerns. PETA’s extensive evidence as well as expert statements amply illustrate that the use of bullhooks causes fear and pain and that such suffering is likely to provoke anger and frustration that can lead to serious, even fatal, attacks.
More than half the accredited zoos in the country have eliminated the use of bullhooks and switched to protected contact for elephants. When keepers use protected contact, elephants are trained with rewards, and a safety barrier always separates the elephants from keepers. The Toledo Zoo is apparently already using positive-reinforcement training with its polar bears, great apes, big cats, and other species. It is time that elephants at the Toledo Zoo be afforded the same kindness.
Link to earlier post on this topic with some of the research on the questions related to procedures in handling captive elephants – (here).