Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 24 December 2002 Issue
Elephant attacks zookeeper
By Jane SuttonMIAMI (Reuters)-
A 6,000-pound (2,700 kg) elephant has smashed a rookie zookeeper against a rock pile at Miami's MetroZoo, badly injuring the man in what a zoo spokesman described as an attack to test dominance in the herd.
The injured zookeeper, Michael Embury, 31, was hospitalised in critical but stable condition after undergoing surgery on Monday, zoo spokesman Ron Magill said. He suffered a broken arm, two broken shoulders, gashes to the head and bruising of the spleen and brain in the Sunday attack but was expected to recover, Magill said.
About 50 spectators were watching when the attack occurred. Embury was feeding two female African elephants in an enclosed paddock when one of them, a 20-year-old named Flora, suddenly charged, knocked him to the ground and kicked him against a pile of boulders, knocking him unconscious, Magill said.
Another zookeeper, Brian McCampbell, saved Embury's life when he scared Flora away by screaming and beating the ground, allowing paramedics to reach the injured man while other workers locked up the elephants, the spokesman said.
Embury was flown by helicopter to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. He was expected to need several weeks of treatment, Magill said.
Embury joined the zoo's staff in October and was the newest worker among those caring for the elephants, a job that requires lots of hands-on contact with the close-knit herd, Magill said.
"You, in effect, become part of the elephant family, part of the herd," he said. "Any time a new member comes into the herd, they will sometimes test that member, challenging them to find out the status of the hierarchy. This particular elephant, Flora, decided to go after the low man on the totem pole."
Zookeepers had not decided whether Flora would go back on public display, Magill said. "Nothing's going to happen to the elephant. The elephant was acting like an elephant," he said. "But when an elephant does this to another elephant ... it doesn't break his shoulder or bruise his brain."
Flora was retired from a circus in 2001. The Miami zoo was caring for her until a sanctuary in South Carolina could take her in early 2003.
Return to Animals in Print 24 Dec 2002 Issue
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