Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Animal group calls for changes at Calgary zoo after elephant injures keeper

CALGARY — An animal advocacy group is calling for changes to how elephants are handled at the Calgary Zoo after a keeper was injured by an animal over the weekend.

Lisa Wathne with People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling on the zoo to use protective barriers that separate the keepers from the animals at all times.

Calling the practice "protected contact," Wathne says in a letter to the zoo's president that keeping the animals separate protects elephants by preventing keepers from using corporal punishment.

"Protected contact eliminates the beatings, bullhooks and chains that are routinely used on elephants when they are handled using the free-contact system," Wathne says in the letter.

Brent Vanhooft was taken to hospital on Sunday afternoon after a 2,000-kilogram Asian elephant named Swarna bumped him into a wall, causing lacerations and bruising to his face.

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