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Dickerson Park Zoo Makes Safety Improvements Following Zookeeper's Death

GREENE COUNTY, Mo. -- Dickerson Park Zoo has made several safety improvements since a tragic incident on October 11 left Zookeeper John Bradford dead.
GREENE COUNTY, Mo. -- Springfield has wrapped up its investigation and report on a zookeeper's death.

It's been a little more than three months since an elephant killed John Bradford at Dickerson Park Zoo.

The city concluded Bradford was doing nothing wrong, but the zoo is still making changes as a result of the horrific event.

As one can imagine, the incident has been a very tough thing to deal with, especially for the staff at Dickerson Park Zoo.

The city's report concluded that Dickerson Park Zoo management and staff responded to the incident in a "prudent and appropriate manner."

"It was kind of a wake up call," says Dickerson Park Zoo Director and Assistant Parks Director Mike Crocker.

62-year-old John Bradford's death had a major impact on not only the zoo's staff, but also on Dickerson Park Zoo's policies.

"Barriers are great to try to keep animals from approaching beyond that distance," says Crocker.  "But they don't stop accidents from happening.  You still have to be careful about what you're doing."

John Bradford was attempting to feed an elephant named Patience back on October 11 when she lunged at him.  He died as a result of his injuries.  Now, the zoo has already made some changes as staff there continue putting safety first.

"If you go in the elephant building, you'll see "trunk reach zones" marked off in yellow on the floor," says Crocker.  "So when you enter the building, it points out this is a trunk reach zone, it's an unsafe zone.  You have to stay beyond the yellow area."   

In addition to marking trunk reach zones, the zoo is also working on other safety improvements like modifying chutes so it's easier to handle and do foot work on the animals.

"Another thing they've asked us to do is just put up additional barriers," says Crocker.  "To give additional capabilities to work from more than just one side when they have to get up close."

It continues to be Dickerson Park Zoo's mission to do its best to make sure an incident like what happened to Bradford doesn't happen again.

"We have to constantly remind ourselves of that and keep safety foremost in our minds as we do the job," says Crocker.  "It's something we will probably be dealing with for a long time."

Crocker says some of the changes can't be made until the weather warms up.  While a lot of these changes can be done internally, some require outside contractors.

There is a memorial for John Bradford at Dickerson Park Zoo.

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