Tuesday I spoke at a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) public hearing in opposition to the proposed amendment to state regulation 301KAR2:082. If this amendment passes, elephant rides will be allowed in the state of Kentucky for the first time since 2005.
KDFWR representatives appeared receptive to the information I provided regarding elephant behavior, harsh trainer treatment and the risks the city accepts when allowing an inherently dangerous exotic animal to share common space with the public. If they grasp the immense risk elephant rides pose, they will surely oppose the amendment.
What prompted the ban nearly seven years ago was an elephant attack at the Louisville zoo that left a man seriously injured. The elephant, Kenya, was privately owned and contracted by the zoo for elephant rides.
The day of the attack Kenya was in an off-exhibit area with her trainer. It was standard practice for Kenya to wander around the enclosed area unchained. But while the trainer was distracted in another area of the enclosure, Kenya opened a gate and wandered out into the zoo.
It was the end of the day and very few zoo visitors were present. A man saw Kenya and walked up to her. Reports indicate that he tried to control her, but she lashed out at him, inflicting serious injury.
The incident resulted in lawsuits against the zoo, the city and Kenya’s owner. The man recovered and Kenya was not harmed.
Following the attack, in recognition of the dangers posed by some species of wild and exotic animals, KDFWR banned public contact with a long list of inherently dangerous animals, including elephants.
One supporter of the ban is the Primate Rescue Center, co-founded by April Truitt. Many of the species that her organization rescues and protects are included in the ban.
Currently KDFWR is being lobbied by the Kosair Shriners to amend the regulation and allow elephant rides. The Kosair Shriners continue to offer elephant rides at their annual circus fundraiser in defiance of the regulation. Their position at the meeting was that elephants are not dangerous, at least not the ones they hire.
Lobbying to stop elephant rides does not guarantee better welfare for elephants but it does provide an opportunity to educate people about the inappropriateness of the activity.
Send your comments to:
Ms Rose Mack
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
(502) 564-5136 (Fax)