According to spokesperson for the city, Cora Scott, handlers were working with a female elephant, Patience, 41, and trying to coax her through a chute which joins the barn to the yard. As Bradford tried to guide Patience, the elephant "lunged forward" knocking Bradford down and crushing him.
Mr. Bradford was reported to have died instantly.
Other zookeepers helping, immediately pulled Patience away from Bradford, stating it all happened in just a few seconds.
The American Association of Zoo Keepers provides for the use of restraints and barriers when dealing with animals, however the mere size of an elephant presents an inherent risk.
According to the News-Leader.com, Patience has been at the zoo since 1990, and has been reported to be aggressive at times. Last week the elephant matriarch, Pinky, died from kidney failure, and since then there were reports of Patience being "hesitant and submissive."
Through research and observation, animal behaviorists realize that elephants have very complex feeling and thought processes. Was Patience's behavior a reaction to the death of Pinky?
In the book Coming of Age With Elephants by Joyce Poole, the author recounts the story of a mother elephant coping with the death of her baby. Just watching the slumped posture of the mother elephant, it seemed as if she was crying over the loss of her baby. She grieved for days, but eventually did move on.
Perhaps nothing is as profound as Poole's description of a herd of elephants stopping to help one of their own when illness occurred. The elephants gathered around trying to encourage the fallen pachyderm to rise. When the herd finally moved on to find food and water, they still returned to mourn and pay homage to one of their own.
A news release states that the United States Department of Agriculture who issues exhibit licenses to zoos and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums who accredits zoos are investigating as well as local authorities.
Patience will not be euthanized. The zoo is open, however the elephant exhibit remains closed.
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