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Zoo to investigate elephant attack
Video from elephant cage will not be released
TOLEDO, Ohio (WUPW) - Toledo Zoo officials are putting together a team to try and figure out what caused Louie, a 7-year-old 4,000-pound African elephant, to attack his trainer Thursday afternoon.
It's against the zoo's protocol for a keeper to be in the elephant cage without another keeper somewhere close by, just in case. But in Thursday's situation, that didn't happen.
Don Redfox, a 30-year veteran with the zoo, was in the cage alone, which, itself, is not unusual, but he didn't have another zookeeper nearby, zoo officials said. Ron Fricke, Toledo ZooDeputy Director, said that's not like him.
"Don, in all his years, is a stickler for protocol," Fricke said. "He's the one that helped write it. He knows it. So, we're not sure. Unfortunately the way the tape tapes, we didn't get much other than when he walked in."
Fricke said he's not sure if Redfox saw something that needed immediate attention, or made some other judgement call. Considering Redfox is still being treated at the University of Toledo Medical Center, hospital, where his family said he appears to be doing better, those questions will stay unanswered for now.
"At this point, we don't know what Don was thinking or doing because we haven't been able to speak with him," Fricke said. "We also, you know, you can't get inside of an elephant's head."
But they can try. The zoo's bringing in several elephant experts and safety specialists, calling it an inquiry team, to break down what happened. They're hoping to assemble that team and get the investigation going as soon as possible.
The team will be chaired by Marna Ramnath, former Zoo Board President and the immediate past Chair of the Zoo Programs Committee. Also serving on the committee will be Fricke, Assistant Director of Safety Andy Birr and Chief Veterinarian Dr. Chris Hanley. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has agreed to identify a representative with expertise in both elephants and safety.
In addition, the team will be advised by Alan Roocroft, an internationally recognized elephant expert who has worked with the Zoo's elephant program for over eight years. Roocroft will take time to review the details of the incident and talk with Zoo staff members.
The video from inside the cage is a big part of that inquiry. During a news conference Saturday, footage of the attack would not be released, the zoo said.
Redfox is recovering from broken ribs and a broken wrist after Louie charged at the keeper with his tusk. "The entire staff of The Toledo Zoo is united in their best wishes for Don and his family, and our thoughts and prayers are with him as he makes what we hope is a full and speedy recovery," said Dr. Anne Baker, Toledo Zoo Executive Director.
FOX Toledo News reporters Heather Miller and Sharia Davis contributed to this report.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
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