Animal advocates denounce keeping elephants in captivity after trainer attacked
Animal rights activists are decrying the practice of keeping animals in captivity after an African Lion Safari trainer suffered serious injuries Friday when he was attacked by an elephant.
There was no word on the trainer's condition Sunday afternoon. The Ministry of Labour is now investigating the incident.
Melissa Matlow, campaign director for World Animal Protection, said in an email that the non-profit's thoughts are with the trainer who was hurt.
"Sadly, this is another crucial reminder that elephants are wild animals and they belong in their natural environment," she said in a statement. "A life in the entertainment industry is no life at all."
Matlow said elephants can be dangerous, and their behaviour can be "quite unpredictable particularly when they are stressed and frustrated in captivity and forced to perform and give rides to people."
It's not clear what caused Friday's incident. Park general manager Trish Gerth did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
African Lion Safari's website says the park has been part of important research on Asian elephants through the years, and has participated in breeding 30 species that are considered endangered and 20 species that are considered threatened.
Park 'gathering information' about incident
Gerth confirmed on Friday afternoon that there was an incident involving an employee and an elephant. The man was transported to Hamilton General Hospital for treatment.
"At this time we have no further details to share as we are actively gathering information," she said.
Activist Mary Jean Tully, who also runs a travel company focused on wildlife conservation and the environment, said in a statement "witnessing the beautiful bond between elephants is a remarkable experience.
"However, many Canadians are not aware of the torture that these beautiful animals are put through in order to satisfy our vacation bucket lists," she said.
The 750-acre park at African Lion Safari 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.
Man killed at park decades ago
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.