Friday, July 02, 2010


Some of you may remember a few months back
Twiggy the elephant was confiscated from her owner Baron Von Uhl
And given to the Toledo Zoo
I am not going to get into the whats or whys of the confiscation here
But it does bother me that we are potentially coming into a time
When if a zoo needs an elephant, a privately owned elephant may be "rounded up"
Via confiscation, and given to a zoo for free, to make a profit.
I am not at all saying animals should never be confiscated
I am saying there is a big big difference between a non profit SANCTUARY
And a zoo that can make money advertising its newest elephant

My grievance with Toledo includes the fact that the Zoo Director
Felt the need to not only dramatize the elephant's health
(Look at photos of Twiggy upon arrival at the zoo)
But also that she had stereotypical behavioral issues

You will generally find, not always, but generally
When a zoo does receive a circus animal, it will have behavior
Issues that can easily be blamed on the animal's "circus background"
Here is the article...

It didn't take long for the Toledo Zoo's newest addition to make herself at home.

Twiggy, a 25-year-old African elephant, arrived at the zoo late Thursday after being confiscated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from a private circus owner near Peru, Ind.

Now, she's getting comfortable in the just-completed "bachelor pad" that the zoo created for 6-year-old Louie.

"Louie's facility has a stall with a concrete floor to bathe him and a huge stall with a sand floor," said Anne Baker, the zoo's executive director. "She seems to really like the sand floor. Within minutes of coming off the truck she was kicking up the dust, taking a sand bath."

Twiggy is being quarantined in the bull facility, a prelude to her being introduced to the zoo's two other resident elephants, Louie and his mother, 29-year-old Renee.

Ms. Baker could not say how long it would be before the public will get to meet Twiggy, who at 5,500 to 5,600 pounds is "thin." The new elephant also has pitted feet, indicating she's been subjected to rough surfaces and didn't receive proper foot care, Ms. Baker said.

"I think what may be for me the most alarming is she has some pretty significant stereotypic behaviors," said Ms. Baker, whose background is in animal behavior. "She does a lot of head swinging, back and forth in a very repetitive manner. She also has a habit of lifting up her one leg very, very high just repeatedly."

Head-swinging often indicates an animal has not had appropriate stimulation, she explained, and has been kept by itself with little to do.

"Elephants are highly sociable," Ms. Baker said. "They like being around other animals."

USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service routinely visits and inspects zoos, circuses, and other facilities with animals protected by the Animal Welfare Act. He said it's "highly unusual" to confiscate a large animal. Inspectors must determine that an animal is suffering, he said.

"With the elephant, it was health-related. She just wasn't doing well," Mr. Sacks said. "She had been losing weight. There were some skin issues."

Ms. Baker said the USDA approached the zoo about two weeks ago about the possibility of taking Twiggy. Most of the Toledo Zoo's large animals come from other zoos rather than from rescue situations, she said.

"We very quickly chatted among our staff ... and we felt it was not only something we could do, but something we should do," Ms. Baker said.

Twiggy's transfer to Toledo has not come without criticism.

Julius von Uhl, the elephant's previous owner, said he rescued Twiggy 15 years ago and trained her to perform in his traveling circus.

He said USDA inspectors were at his home three times last year and never informed him of any problems with his elephant, who lived in his barn.

Mr. von Uhl claimed his elephant was stolen from him just as he had made plans to retire and sell Twiggy to the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Tracy Gray, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh Zoo, confirmed that zoo officials had spoken with Mr. von Uhl about the elephant but said no agreement was in place.

"We were just in discussions with him, and we had nothing concrete," she said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also chimed in on the issue, saying the USDA had transferred Twiggy "from one bad situation to another" by moving her to the Toledo Zoo. PETA accused the zoo of using "an outdated, circus-style form of elephant management" - a claim Ms. Baker disputed.

"Do we use a guide? Yes, we do, but do we use it inappropriately? No," Ms. Baker said, adding that PETA does not want to see elephants in zoos nor does it want zoos to exist at all.

"We certainly expected to hear this from PETA, because this is what they say," she said.

"They will say this about every zoo in the country. That's their mantra. Our mantra is, we want to do the very best possible for the animals, and I think we do that."

Now then...
Yesterday this happened...

Heather Miller / FOX Toledo News

Louie attacks keeper at Toledo Zoo
Don Redfox has broken ribs, wrist

Updated: Thursday, 01 Jul 2010, 10:43 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Jul 2010, 4:26 PM EDT

TOLEDO, Ohio (WUPW) - A 30-year Toledo Zoo elephant manager has broken ribs and a broken wrist after an incident Thursday afternoon with Louie, a 4,000-pound African elephant, inside the elephant enclosure, the zoo said.

Don Redfox, who has three decades of experience working with elephants, was struck by one of Louie's tusks. The elephant charged Redfox several times, zoo spokesperson Andi Norman said.

Emergency crews were dispatched to the Toledo Zoo shortly before 4 p.m. The incident took place at around 3:45 p.m.

Several emergency vehicles and at least two ambulances are at the zoo. Redfox was rushed to the University of Toledo Medical Center. Norman said after the incident, the keeper was conscious and coherent.

The zoo has not spoken to Redfox since the incident and they don't know what transpired in the moments prior to Louie charging at the keeper. They are reviewing video footage.

"We're still trying to piece together what happened this afternoon and we won't be able to until we are able to talk to the keeper that was involved," said Ron Fricke, Toledo Zoo deputy director.

Louie, who is seven years old, has been under the keeper's care since the elephant was born at the Zoo in 2003, zoo officials said. Louie's birthday is April 24, according to the zoo's website.

Norman said Louie had not been showing signs of aggression before the attack. The elephant was calm one he was returned to a pen with his mother, Renee.

Amanda Sherman, a Toledo resident who lives next to the zoo near the elephant enclosure, told FOX Toledo News that she heard yelling and elephant noises moments before the incident.

She heard someone yell, "No! No! No!", and could see someone pushed against a fence in the elephant exhibit. Seconds later she heard the elephant making loud noises.

Another witness who was at the zoo with his family at the time of incident said he heard that a zoo trainer had been attacked and people were seen running and screaming for help.

"The man was body-checked into the iron bars (by the elephant)," said Jason, who was visiting Toledo from Charleston, S.C. "He was stampeded or head-butted into the back (by the elephant)."

Jason said he could see Redfox's feet were partially through the bars and two other park employees were propping him up. Jason added that the victim was holding his ribs and blood was streaming from the top of his head and down his face.

The incident remains under investigation. The zoo currently plans to keep the elephants on exhibit. Norman said the public was never in danger after the attack.

Norman said the zookeepers will have limited contact with Louie until further notice and will not go into the cages.

The last animal attack at the Toledo Zoo took place in 2000, and it also involved an elephant.

The Toledo Zoo is located between Broadway Street and the Anthony Wayne Trail in the city's south end.

The Toledo Zoo houses three elephants -- Louie, his mother, 30-year-old Renee, and Twiggy, 25. Twiggy was delivered to the zoo in February from a private facility. It was learned in March that Renee is pregnant. She is in the early stages of pregnancy and is expected to deliver in spring 2011.


My question now is
Where did this "stereotypical behavior" come from
This elephant was born at the zoo, a very controlled environment
It was trained by this man
No traveling
No "rough surfaces"
I get zero pleasure from this trainer being injured
And I realize it was not his comment that made it into the anti-Circus article
But the Zoo Director has her background in animal behavior
How did she miss this coming?
This elephant didn't just wake up one day and think "I am gonna down this guy"
They give lots of signs before they get to that point
Who is responsible for not seeing those signs?
Who should eat the blame on this Ms. Zoo Director?

I feel bad for the trainer, and hope he is home recovering now
I also wish someone there, when they received Twiggy, had stepped up
And explained that, yes, maybe the elephant did have "stereotypical behaviors"
Or maybe, also, the elephant was slightly stressed by the fact
It was being handled by new people, in a new place, near new elephants
And as an elephant that was solo it's whole life
And worked by the same guy nearly it's whole life
That might cause head weaving and bobbing
I am sure someone on the staff recognized that possibility...

But I guess it was easier to just blame the Circus...


Susabelle said...

It's always easier to blame the circus, which is unfortunate for all of us.

mike swain said...

First and foremost, I wish for Mr. Redfox to have a speedy and full recovery. As for the conviscation of Twiggy I won't go into whether it was warranted or not, but rather the negative things that was said about the previous owner on the zoo's behalf. I thought it was uncalled for, privately owned or in a zoo setting both are managing captive elephants. I have been raised with elephants male,female, African or Asian all my life and in no way consider myself an expert. We stiil have a lot to learn Case and point. Louie was born and trained in a perfect controlled enviroment. There is no other guy to blame for his behavior. The shortest word in the engish language that may have the most power of prevention is the word NO. We sometimes have to realize our foulability and not let ego and pride get in the way of good judgement.

Steve said...

Is Mum pregnant to son or by AI?

Anonymous said...

Have any of you seen the barn that elephant had to live in? I did.
Enough said. DJY

Casey McCoy Cainan said...

No. That is not enough said. And no I didn't see the barn. This post was not at all related to the act of confiscation, however, if you would like to go down that road, here we go. First off, I will point out that the reason given for confiscation was the elephant's health, not the barn. It was said to be skinny and losing weight, but the elephant hadn't been weighed, so the "weight loss" used to confiscate was in fact just speculation. Secondly, the elephant did not look unusually skinny for an African elephant to me, and in photos it looked similar in girth to the pregnant female already owned by the Toledo Zoo. The USDA is only supposed to confiscate an animal, in this type of situation, if they truly believe the animal is in imminent danger. I am certain the condition of the barn was not great, I am also certain it was not a imminent threat to the elephant's life. The irony in your statement is that the fancy "zillion" dollar barns at zoos don't seem to be doing much for the behavior issues of the elephants they house. I can also promise you, had it been Twiggy that rolled this guy around, we would be hearing all sorts of rhetoric about her "Past life of abuse at the evil hands of Baron Von Uhl" As it sits now, I suspect this will be an early on set musk or something. I sincerely doubt we will hear anything about failure to read the building aggressive intent of the elephant and the allowing inexperienced interns to handle the elephants... It just isn't going to happen.

I feel Confucius said something relevant to this about 580 B.C.E.
He described knowledge like this "When you know a thing, to recognize you know it, when you don't know a thing, to recognize that you do not know it"
I think that is enough said...

Steve said...

I think the "inexperienced interns" sums part of it up pretty well. They were lucky to get 7 years out of the bull. Here in Australia we have a bull calf at Sydney Zoo who has already hospitalised one keeper and come close to sorting out a couple more. He turned 1 year old this week!

Is Mum pregnant to son or by AI?

mike swain said...

Steve, 7 year elephant is just that a 7 year old elephant. male or female does not play into his aggression at that age if handled properly and watch for "INTENT" that may lead to aggressive behavior. As for the 1 yr. old baby male at the Sydney zoo the elephant department should go work over in the kids petting zoo and handle rabbits and chickens.

Radar said...

Steve, the new pregnancy was conceived via artificial insemination, as was Louie's birth. The donor is Jackson of the Pittsburgh Zoo's International Conservation Center. Almost every African elephant birth in the country right now and for the last several years (excluding the San Diego Wild Animal Park) have been sired by Jackson via AI and natural breeding. He has eight on the ground at this time. I believe the only other African male to have sired more calves in captivity in the world is the breeding bull at Ramat Gan, Yossi.
A speedy recovery to Mr. Redfox and condolences to the Toledo Zoo elephant staff.

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