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New AZA Policy Offers Revolutionary Protection for Captive Elephants, PETA Celebrates!


Washington — After more than a decade of efforts by PETA’s elephant experts and other concerned animal protection groups to end “free contact” between elephants and their human handlers—a system based on negative reinforcement, physical punishment, and domination—the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) has approved a new policy that will require all AZA-accredited zoos to switch to protected-contact elephant management. That means no bullhoooks (sharp steel-tipped weapons that resemble a fireplace poker) and no keeper exposure to dangerous elephants. This requirement is scheduled to take effect by September 1, 2014.

“We have pushed for this for more than a decade,” says PETA Director Delcianna Winders. “Elephants in zoos have killed people out of sheer frustration from being jabbed with bullhooks, but thanks to the AZA’s new directive, come 2014, both ’man and beast’ will be shielded from physical injury.”

Over the past 20 years, human interactions with captive elephants in the U.S.—often interactions in which a keeper has beaten an elephant who has then retaliated—have resulted in 15 human deaths and more than 135 reported injuries. No deaths and only one injury (the result of disregarded protocol) have occurred at zoos that use protected contact.

Protected contact prohibits direct contact between humans and elephants and is much safer for elephants and humans alike. There will be limited exceptions for some medical care, although elephants can be taught to present parts of their bodies for injections and pills. Not only will elephants no longer be intimidated and punished with instruments such as bullhooks in order to force them to move and do what they have no interest in doing, elephant handlers also will no longer run the risk of severe injury and death as a result of free contact.

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