After Difficult Lessons, Oakland Zoo a Leader in Elephant Welfare
San Francisco Chronicle
(more slides in original article)
It all started on a rainy morning in January 1991 in a barn in the Oakland hills, when Smoky, an African elephant, stomped to death a veteran keeper at the Oakland Zoo during a routine enclosure cleaning.
“It was no accident,” Dr. Joel Parrott, the zoo’s longtime director, said recently. “The elephant did that intentionally, and it wasn’t his fault. For us, that was an awakening. I think until that point we were all in denial.”
Like zoos everywhere, the Oakland Zoo’s elephants lived under harsh conditions that included chains, electrical shocks and sharp pokers called bullhooks intended to control Earth’s largest land animal. Across the country, several keepers a year died or suffered severe injuries as elephants occasionally fought back.
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