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Elephant Handling

Regarding the death of Pamela Orsi, elephant keeper at the Wild Animal Park: she would not be dead had she not been in the enclosure with the elephants. There is no legitimate reason for keepers to handle, train or interact directly with elephants, any more than they do with rhinos or any other large and dangerous animal.

San Diego Zoological Society’s elephant policy is based on a system of dominance, where keeper is king. In order to establish and maintain this unnatural and unnecessary form of management, the elephant must be physically and psychologically bullied. This can (and does) result in brutality and cruelty to the elephant, as we saw several years ago when Dunda was restrained and repeatedly beaten. It can (and does) also result in injury and death to the keeper when elephants forget the rules and act like the wild animals they are.

There is, however, a compelling reason for maintaining this system, even when the stakes are high--it’s called profit, money, dollars. The system is necessary, not for medical reasons or for the safety of elephants or keepers, but for making elephants perform, for rides, for tricks, for shows. I think people would gladly forgo this unnatural, degrading entertainment once they know the price. Is animal abuse and human life worth a moment’s entertainment? If you don’t think so, tell the Zoological Society, it might just save a life.

MRS. ROBERT GOLDENBERG

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