Discussion in 'United States' started by CritterBlog, 15 Jan 2011.
Knoxville Zoo elephant keeper killed Knoxville News Sentinel
Yet another reason why a National protected contact system should be adopted.
Very sad. I extend my sincere condolences o her family, friends and work colleagues.
Elephant Keeper Killed
You can't help it, this just flashes through your mind doesn't it? Same feeling here...
My condolences to everyone involved, it's just tragic to loose anyone way too early.
Every professional elephant keeper I've encountered knows the risk involved when working elephants in free contact. It is considered one of the top ten deadliest jobs in the world. Just because mining is dangerous or fishing for king crab, does not mean we don't do it! She knew the risks and she died doing what she loved.
I feel that businesses should always try their hardest to keep the risks as low as possible. Mining wouldn't be halve as "deadly" if that was exactly what mining companies should do, but accidents always happen because of lacks security.
King Crab fishing is also kept as safe as possible, you just can't make the Bering Strait any safer then it is.
The thing with elephant keeping is, that risks are taken when there are options to avoid them. I can understand elephant keepers are aware of the dangers and accept them, but zoos can easily keep them out of harms way.
See, keepers of venemous snakes are also aware of the dangers, but i bet they aren't allowed to take them out of their enclosures constantly to handle them without a very big reason.
Venomous snake are often taken out of enclosures and handled. Here in Australia alone the are dozens if not hundreds of "snake shows" that travel the country with deadly snakes, one owned by a member of this forum. I believe the handling and keeping of elephants should be determined after assessing the animals involved. This time in particular was believed to be an accident.
I don't disagree that protected contact should possibly be used more often but a blanket ban on all free contact is not suitable. Free contact has greatly enriched the life of one elephant I know, who would not be able to have the enrichment she does if she was protected. I also know of two elephants who seem to have slumped in behavior since being changed to protected contact.
Such a sad loss and tragic accident. I send my condolences to her family, friends and people she worked with.
I would like to know how many zoochatters have personnaly worked around elephants. It amazes me that people make comments on PC vs. FC when they have no idea what they are talking about. Jakari is 100% right that PC should be used when nessecary but elephants overall have more enriching lives when worked in a FC program. Jakari is also right in saying that she knew the risks. We all do when working hands on with elephants, venomous, big cats, rhinos or marine mammals, its part of the job. If those two elephants are forced to now be put on a PC program it will confuse them and start putting stress on them. Same thing is happening to the orcas at seaworld now that they are trying to work them PC. Basically if you want to work FC with elephants, know the risks and don't comment on things that you have very little knowledge about.
Couldnt have said it better ....
Although I do not work with elephants especially (considering I am only in middle school) they are my passion and I have done quite a bit of research. And watched training demonstrations with the zoo's elephants. A 10,000 pound animal could just turn around and bump into a 120 pound keeper, and the results could be fatal. What I do not like about free contact is, that the keepers seem to be trying to control a 10,000 pound animal. While in protected contact we also have a positive reinforcement program. Meaning the elephants are not in with the keepers directly, and they have the choice to take part in the enrichment. Most times they do! When a keeper comes out to observe the savanna the elephants recognize them and come to them (part of this is food driven). You also said, elephants that were switched "slumped in behavior." At the Dallas zoo for example we got two elephants from a private facility (congo and Kamba) and they have settled in very well. While I assume personality is a factor in how they transition. I for one am working hard in my studies to become an elephant keeper and I would love my job just as much if I worked the elephants in PC rather than FC.
I truly loathe people that say "if you haven't worked there, you have no idea what you are talking about". I've been in this discussion before and didn't succeed in convincing the other, and i have no doubt whatsoever I won't be succesfull here.
But i want to say two things;
-If you are in ANY industry and you are failing to explain your working methods towards someone that is not knowledgable about it, you can't just dish up the old "if you haven't worked there, you have no idea" trick. IMO you should do better.
- People within the Knoxville Zoo board of directors have a responsability towards the safety of their staff. Someone from that zoo had to call her parents and tell them that she died because they (the board of directors) CHOOSE to use FC. I have a distinct feeling that people in the industry don't understand they put these strains on someone responsable for them and dismiss it with "it's my choice". Within any company, it's not just your choice to put yourself in danger and it has consequences for the people responsable for you.
It's a bit of a shame something tragic like this should end up in a discussion, but as long as people die because of FC with elephants the discussion will continue.
Your right, you will not convince me. I used to think I knew a lot about elephants but it wasn't until I started working with them did I really become educated. To be honest, if you haven't worked them I don't want your opinion. You simply don't know. Any zoos B.O.D. that decides to be FC is putting the animals well being first and if someone cant handle the fact you could be hurt or killed then don't do it. Simple. A persons decision is their decision, the keeper in this case probably explained to friends and family its a dangerous job and something could happen. It would be the same if a loved one wanted to join the military, knowing they were going to into combat. They have a passion for it and they wouldn't be fulfilling their potential if they didn't do it.
and for dallaspachy: they are controling a 10,000 animal. Majority of elephant incidents are human era and not the animals fault. It can be a simple mis-step or cue that can cause injury. And you are correct that personality does play into how an animal adapts to surroundings but overall PC zoo elephants (especially ones that were FC for a long time) do get the "slumped behavior". And trust me, I say this with experience, FC is much more rewarding to a keeper (and elephant) than PC. Good luck with your studies
I don't deny the importance of what is best for the animal and the keeper, but you ought to realize that they are not the only two involved (as jwer is saying).
If you haven't been at an institution when a keeper has been killed by an animal, then perhaps you don't know what you are talking about: the damage to the staff, the institution, the community, fund-raising, and the family and friends of the dead keeper, and probably to the animal that killed its keeper.
There is a bigger picture that must be considered. The keeper who "knew the risks" does not take full responsibility for the consequences should the worst happen. Those who must bear the responsibility have a right to an opinion.
I personally prefer the idea of protected contact to free contact, as it does minimize alot of risks, but often protected contact facilities are more expensive to build than free contact ones, so I guess both have there cons and pros...
It would be interesting to hear from anyone involved with Howletts/Port Lympne on the subject. I believe they have changed from Free Contact [with everything] to Protected Contact after tiger & elephant-related fatalities, partly influenced by officialdom outside the zoo.
My sincere sympathy goes out to the family and loved ones of the keeper killed in this tragic accident.
I find it quite reprehensible that this tragedy is being used as an excuse for the PC advocates to jump on the bandwagon.
PC versus FC has been covered very extensively on other threads on this site. No one's opinion appears to have changed.
Please let this young lady rest in peace.
Yes, I agree! Rest in peace. There are always two different sides. And this is not the place.
I didn't say all elephants that were changed from fc to pc slumped in behavior I said two that I know did. I would almost describe it as a depression, no longer greeted by the usual squeaks in the morning. All I'm saying is management techniques should be done on a case by case basis. I am happy to work protected contact as much as free but free contact in my opinion makes a keepers job easier, even if more dangerous. I don't think many people realize how mentally exhausting elephant keeping can be. Ever more so in protected contact.
Also all legitimate elephant keepers will use positive reinforcement, no matter what management method, PC, RC or FC. The ankus is only an extension of the keepers arm. No matter what, the best way to manage elephants is by developing a mutual trust. If you can't trust the animal in your care and it can't trust you, change management styles or change jobs. You can trust an animal and still be cautious!
It is always sad and frustrates me when the death of an elephant keeper is used to start a debate about management. Unfortunately I bit!
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