Trainer seriously injured after elephant attack at Ontario's African Lion Safari

A trainer at African Lion Safari suffered serious injuries Friday afternoon when he was attacked by an elephant.

Man taken to hospital in Hamilton, park is 'actively gathering information'

A trainer at African Lion Safari was injured after an attack by an elephant Friday according to Hamilton police. (Richard Vogel/The Associated Press)

A trainer at African Lion Safari has suffered serious injuries after police say he was attacked by an elephant.

Emergency officials were called to the drive-through wildlife park in rural Hamilton, about 30 kilometres from the city centre, Friday afternoon.

Hamilton police tweeted about the attack just before 3:40 p.m., saying a patient has been airlifted to hospital. The Ministry of Labour says it's assigned an investigator to the case.

Police spokesperson Jackie Penman said details about the elephant involved and what led up to the incident would have to come from the ministry and park.

"This is not a typical call," she added.

A spokesperson for Ornge air ambulance said their London-based helicopter transported a man in his 30s to Hamilton General Hospital with serious injuries.

Large elephant herd

Park general manager Trish Gerth provided CBC News with a statement just before 4:30 p.m.

"African Lion Safari can confirm that we had an incident this afternoon involving one of our elephants and an employee, who has been transported to Hamilton General," she wrote.

 "At this time we have no further details to share as we are actively gathering information." 

A man in his 30s was airlifted to Hamilton General Hospital with serious injuries. (Pascal Marchand/CBC)

The 750-acre park is home to a herd of 16 Asian elephants, the largest herd in any North American zoological facility, according to its website.

Online, African Lion Safari touts its work in conservation and breeding wildlife, and lists its elephant herd as one of its major attractions.

The website says the park has been part of important research on Asian elephants and has participated in breeding 30 species that are considered endangered and 20 species that are considered threatened.

This isn't the first time an elephant has injured a person at the park.

In 1989, 21-year-old Omer Norton was killed at the park.

Norton, a McMaster University natural sciences student, was trying to stop two elephants from fighting in an outdoor pen. Norton had turned his back to the elephants to get an elephant hook, which is a long pole with a hook on the end. One elephant swung its head around, knocked Norton to the ground and leaned its head on him as he lay there. The weight crushed him.

The park said the elephant had never shown aggression toward staff.


Dan Taekema


Dan Taekema is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. He has worked with CBC News in Hamilton, Windsor and Toronto and for newspapers around southern Ontario. You can reach him by emailing daniel.taekema@cbc.ca.