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Zoo Elephant Tragedy Felt Across the Nation

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Dickerson Park Zoo has released new information about how an elephant killed a worker.
Any time you work with large animals in these settings, it's certainly a risk we all understand in the business. -- Jeff Ewelt, Executive Dir. ZooMontana
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Dickerson Park Zoo has released new information about how an elephant killed a worker.

62-year-old John Bradford was crushed, while trying to move the elephant named Patience from a barn stall into a chute that connects to the yard.

Bradford had worked at the zoo for nearly 30 years.

"Extremely sad time for all of the co workers at the zoo and at the city," Springfield Spokeswoman Cora Scott said.

The zoo abides by a protocol called "protective contact" to keep a physical barrier between keeper and animal.

It is a safety measure required by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

ZooMontana Executive Director Jeff Ewelt works with large animals on a regular basis.   

He said elephant deaths at zoos are rare, but they do happen even with protection in place for the zoo keepers.

"Elephant deaths with protective contact in place are really rare in North American zoos. To hear of a death with protective contact is shocking," he said.

"Any time you work with large animals in these settings it's certainly a risk we all understand in the business," Ewelt said.

Last week the 50-year-old matriarch elephant Pinky at Dickerson Park Zoo was put down.

Ewelt said the loss of another elephant could have caused 41-year-old Patience to act out.

"That certainly could have had an impact on the social structure of those elephants at the park and that could cause some aggression," he said.

Friday's tragedy affects not just Springfield, but the entire nation.

"All of us in the zoo industry we all know each other and so when something like this happens it's a tragedy for the entire industry," Ewelt said.

And serves as a time to mourn the loss of a veteran zookeeper and figure out how to prevent this from happening again.

"It also lets us perk up our ears and say what can we do in this industry to make it safer and better for the individuals working in it," Ewelt said.
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