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Elephant Attacks Trainer in Ohio

Elephant Attacks Trainer in Ohio

ABC news has been reporting on the aftermath of an elephant attack in a zoo in Toledo, Ohio. The zoo’s “star elephant” Baby Louie attacked his trainer on July 1st. Since then the employees of the zoo have been taking extra caution in dealing with Baby Louie for fear that he may injure others.

Whenever there is an attack of this nature in the news, there is always an attempt by zoo officials to obscure an obvious truth: that animals – especially animals with the enormous intellectual capacity of elephants – do not want to live in zoos. It is absurd to think that an animal, as large as an elephant and as intelligent as an elephant, could ever be psychologically healthy in an environment as small as a zoo. They are born to be animals that live in wide open spaces with plenty of room to roam.

According to ABC, there have been nearly twenty zoos that have either shut down or decided to phase out their elephant exhibits in the past twenty years due to concerns about space, climate, and the animals’ health. There is no way to get around the fact that elephants have no place in confined man-made environments. And they certainly should not be taken from their herds and families in Africa and Asia and transported to North America to be entertainment for humans.

The elephants at the Toledo Zoo are trained and handled using a method which is called “free contact”, which is a nice way of saying they are trained using a heavy rod with a metal hook on the end. These rods called bullhooks are staples of the circus industry which also uses them to train elephants. Officials with zoos and circuses alike consistently assert that a bullhook is used only as a “guide” and that animals are never struck with them. Even if there weren’t a plethora of videos of trainers using bullhooks to beat elephants mercilessly, holding one in your hand is all the evidence you need to determine their real purpose. The one I held was at least twice as heavy as your average claw hammer and the point on the end was as sharp as the point of any knife.

So when you take an animal accustomed to African climates, wide open spaces, the freedom to move about to his heart’s desire and to find intellectual stimulation and companionship, and then you take him to a place as cold as Ohio, lock him in a confined area, and beat him with a heavy pointed rod, are you honestly surprised when he eventually lashes out at one of his captors? Don’t be foolish.

Animals do not exist for our amusement any more than they exist for our consumption. Zoos, rodeos, circuses, and other forms of animal-based “entertainment” are the cruelest forms of animal exploitation. They don’t even dissemble their cruelty behind a guise of beneficial scientific research or satisfying nutritional needs. Zoos and circuses exist openly as places where animals are confined, beaten, starved, and ultimately killed for the amusement of human beings.

Boycott zoos, circuses, rodeos, horse racing, bullfights, and every other kind of cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. Let the people who run these businesses know there is no future in making a living off of the mistreatment of animals, for the enjoyment of humans.

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Photo: Mara 1

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336 comments

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2:48PM PST on Dec 18, 2012

Thank you for info.

2:47PM PST on Dec 18, 2012

Thank you for info.

2:37AM PST on Mar 11, 2011

Any animal can act in an unpredictable manner. Dogs or cats can turn on you. What does that prove?

3:33PM PDT on Aug 17, 2010

Diane: Elephants shouldn't be held in small enclosures for entertainment purposes. Period.

That said, I am not against zoos. They sometimes are the only chance one has to see & learn about wildlife. Extensive research has been done and we have means to determine optimal space-stimulation-companionship-diet for a lot of animals & be able to keep them happy in captivity. Life adapts & it is not necessary to reproduce "nature". In fact, I heard on NPR that the type, variety & number of "toys" or intellectual stimulation had more to do with a healthy animal (in that study primates) than the size of the enclosure. Past a certain basic size and setup, the researchers noticed that enlarging the enclosure didn't positively affect them as much as adding new toys & switch "furniture" around frequently.
We need to learn to take care of them better & give them appropriate space. But zoos are as important to our education as schools. Kids need to learn how wonderful wildlife is & Elephants should not be unattainable African myths. Zoos should be public services, like libraries.
Check out this Canadian zoo. To save $, be fair to animal & help winter business, they only own animals from Boreal climate (northern). (They can leave them out 365 /year as is natural, no night or winter confinement = more space for large enclosures). They have extra long (or U shaped) spaces to allow running. They house many species together and put people in caged trains thro

3:41AM PDT on Aug 16, 2010

(cont)..............to the person who said Louie (or another elephant) looked abused because of the color or shape of the ears, that made me laugh, actually. You are obviously confused as to the differences between Asian and African elephants. The Asian elephants' ears are much smaller, pinker, and located lower on the head than are those of African elephants. What you're noticing means absolutely nothing!

To those who keep saying that sancturaries are the places for elephants, you are right on, however, keep in mind that those places can only hold "X" number of animals! What on earth do you think would happen if all the zoos suddenly closed their elephant "exhibits"? Let's see..........turn them loose on the streets to fend for themselves? The sanctuaries in Africa are also not 100% safe places. If you bother to watch TV, they've focused many times on the animal preserves and sanctuaries where poaching is still an everyday occurance. Just because the area says it's a "sanctuary" doesn't mean the animals are safe. If you bothered watching "The Secret Life of Elephants" recently, it focused on exactly this subject. The ivory trade is alive and well, and elephant meat is becoming a staple of many a table in third world countries.

Elaine, I've got news for you. Most elephants don't live in jungles. In Africa, they live in the savannah and in some areas, the desert. Jungles are being destroyed as we speak, and elephants never did live in the jungles, in reality

3:25AM PDT on Aug 16, 2010

(cont)............to illustrate a bit better what I was referring to about rules......let's suppose the trainer had backed out of Louie's enclosure simply because Louie looked annoyed............Louie would have realized (as a highly intelligent animal) that all it took was to look menacingly at humans and they'd leave him alone. If that worked, he showed dominance and it paid off. The next time he was asked to move away, leave the enclosure to be treated for some medical condition, have his enclosure cleaned (whatever) and he didn't want to do it, then what? If a menacing glance didn't work, then the next step might have resulted in him charging his handler. It could easily have escalated into something resulting in having had him shot and killed. Would that have been preferable to "poking" him on the foot with a stick? With horses, we use crops, etc. to "reinforce" verbal commands. Again, it's using only as much pressure as necessary, but as much as is required. To me, if I ask a 1100 lb. horse to respect my space and he doesn't, then I have no problem with tapping him across the chest or front knees with a plastic crop. Since I've trained my horses from birth to respect my space, that's rarely necessary. I also respect their space, and it goes both ways. Kids? Same thing. If a 5-yr-old says they refuse to go to bed, do you simply say, "Okay, sweetheart. Whatever you wish!" or do you pick them up and demand they go to bed as they've been told?

2:48AM PDT on Aug 16, 2010

Jackie W., you are assuming that an animal's instincts include WISHING for something it's never known. That's not using common sense, but looking at things thru "rose colored glasses". The elephant may need to have large spaces in which to move about freely, but in it's mind, it isn't WISHING for such open spaces if it's never known them. You are also ignoring the points brought up previously, maybe because you didn't scroll down and read them, but this elephant was a juvenile approaching adolescence whose hormones may have affected his attitude. What would you suggest, that he be allowed to set the rules for being handled? He wasn't IN the wild, so unfortunate as it was, he had to be controlled, and if that meant that his handler felt it necessary to use a "stick", and tapped him on the foot with it, big deal. There is a saying used in the horse industry by those horsemen most respected, "Use however much force is necessary, but as least possible to get results". That applies to raising children as well, doesn't it? Why would it be different with an elephant, when it weighs 200/X more, just because it is in an environment that isn't natural? I'm amazed at how much the point has been missed by those who want to only pick and chose their arguments or be idealistic about how the world should be, but have no suggestions on how to get there.

1:57PM PDT on Aug 11, 2010

While Louie was born at the Toledo Zoo, that in no way diminishes his natural instincts for wanting to roam free. When I watched the surveillance video shown recently on local news stations, the impression I came away with was that Louie's handler walked into the enclosure (as yet, no one has determined why Louie was inside the enclosure) where both he and Louie seemed to be startled by one another. Louie's ears came forward and his stance alone seems like it should've been indication enough to leave him alone. The handler then came back a second time carrying one of the rods and pushed (or touched) the elephant with it, at which point Louie became defensive and the attack ensued. It seems a reasonable guess that the handler may not have cared for being startled or having Louie take an aggressive looking stand towards him and may have wanted to 'teach' Louie a lesson. As I said, this is just my take on the incident after having watched the video. Just another example of why these magnificent beings should remain in their own natural habitat with oversight and protections afforded to them. Those elephants that cannot be introduced into the wild (for many varying reasons) should be allowed to live their lives in one of the many sanctuaries around the world that have been created for them in case of such circumstances.

10:05AM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

Let's hope next time he kills the trainer.
How can these idiots who think animals are for their entertainment still continue ? May they rot in hell.
Beatrice.

4:56PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

Yet another example that these magnificient animals should´t be kept in captivity...

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