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Zoo Staff Adjusting Procedures After Zookeeper Death

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- One week after the death of an elephant keeper at Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo, the staff is still coming to terms with the death and changing some procedures for interacting with the elephants.
We're looking at all our procedures and our policies and we're making a few adjustments - at least some temporary modifications for how we're working with Patience
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- One week after the death of an elephant keeper at Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo, the staff is still coming to terms with the death and changing some procedures for interacting with the elephants.

Zoo spokesperson Melinda Arnold appeared on KOLR10 News Daybreak Friday morning.  She said the staff is still mourning John Bradford's death.  Bradford died Friday, October 11, when he was feeding the elephants.   Bradford, 62,  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.

The incident was devastating for the zoo staff.  "Everyone is experiencing John's death differently," Arnold says.  "We're all individuals and we're all healing in our own way.  Our main focus right now is providing for the needs for all of our staff, whatever that may be.

It certainly has brought us together very, very closely and bonded us very much.. We were already very close as a zoo family, but we're even closer now just helping each other through this process."

Zoo staff had reported the elephant that crushed Bradford, 41-year old Patience, had been acting tentative and submissive after the recent death of the elephant herd's matriach, Connie.  Since Bradford's death, Patience has been moved away from the other females, Arnold says.

"We have two elephant facilities.  We have our cow barn where people will see, in the background, when they come to the public area to veiw the elephants.  And there is an off-exhibit area where we keep our two bull elephants.  Patience has been moved over there.  But you will still see Moolah, one of our cows, on exhibit, when you come out to the zoo," Arnold says.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has specific guidelines for protecting zookeepers from large animals.

They require zoos to use what they call a “protective contact” to keep the person physically away from the elephant.

The AZA Procedure Manual says “All institutions must have in place adequate infrastructure to manage and care for elephants with barriers and/or restraints in place to increase employee safety.”

All institutions must have in place and be implementing adequate infrastructure to manage and care for elephants with barriers and/or restraints in place to increase employee safety.

According to Springfield Spokeswoman Cora Scott, John Bradford was behind protective contact.

The Dickerson Park Zoo uses steel beams to separate zookeepers from the elephants.

The AZA also says there will be investigations by regulatory agencies and by the AZA Accreditation Commission.

In the meantime, Arnold says some procedures are already being changed.  "As far as Patience and our zookeepers in that area, we're looking at all our procedures and our policies and we're making a few adjustments - at least some temporary modifications for how we're working with Patience until we can truly assess what the full situation is with her."

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