Experienced handler at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, crushed while moving animal between areas
A zookeeper has been crushed to death by an elephant in the city of Springfield, Missouri.
John Bradford, 62, died while moving an elephant into a chute connecting barn stalls to the barnyard at the Dickerson Park Zoo on Friday, city spokeswoman Cora Scott said.
Scott said that the elephant, a 41-year-old female named Patience who had been at the zoo since 1990, hesitated in the approximately four-metre (12ft) long chute. When Bradford reached for her with a guide to coax her forward, she lunged forward. Bradford was knocked into the chute and crushed against the floor.
Other zookeepers quickly pulled Patience away from Bradford but he had been killed instantly, Scott said. No other zoo employees were injured.
Bradford had worked at the zoo for 30 years and was the zoo’s elephant manager for 25 years.
“It’s an extremely sad time for the co-workers at the zoo and at the city,” Scott said.
Paul Price, a longtime friend and former co-worker of Bradford, told the Springfield News-Leader that elephants had been Bradford’s passion. “He was always aware of dangers and everything and was instrumental in developing the elephant management program at the zoo at the national and international levels,” Price said.
The zoo has two female and two male elephants. Scott said zookeepers had been keeping a close eye on the female elephants since the death earlier this month of the zoo’s matriarch elephant, Connie. Zookeepers reported that Patience’s behaviour had been hesitant and submissive since then.
Zoo officials said that Patience would not be killed and no disciplinary action was expected.
The zoo opened as usual on Friday, although the elephants were not on exhibit. The US agriculture department and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums were notified of Bradford’s death.
“This is very sad day for the zoo family, as well as our community as a whole,” said Mike Crocker, assistant parks director and zoo director.
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