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Zoo Employees Well-Versed in Handling Wild Animals

(Springfield, MO) -- The death at SeaWorld has people talking about the dangers of dealing with wild animals in captivity.
(Springfield, MO) -- The death at SeaWorld has people talking about the dangers of dealing with wild animals in captivity.

Crowds flock to Dickerson Park Zoo to find out more about their favorite animals and see them up close.

But the fact remains: even in captivity, these are wild animals.

"There's an inherent risk in working at a zoo," says John Bradford, supervisor of the Asian area. "The deal is you want to minimize those risks if the situation calls for it and an animal is in need with direct contact with keepers, we assess the situation and determine if it's an acceptable risk or not."

Keepers say there are key elements in working with these creatures.

First, understand the animal's behavior in the wild. Then, get familiar with each animal's individual tendencies just like getting to know a person.

Make sure staff members are highly trained and communicate animal behaviors to one another.

And lastly, a facility needs to be constructed safely.

Upgrades at the zoo have eliminated free contact where keepers were previously in a pen with the animals.

Elephants are intelligent and social.

For instance, a few years back, one of the elephant calves died.

That's when keepers noticed a lot of aggression with the elephants.  By tracking that behavior, they could then protect their own safety.
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