FREE CONTACT AND USE OF THE BULLHOOK

Current national zoo legislation within the UK still permits “free contact” (no safety barriers between elephant and keeper) and the use of bullhooks. It is believed that some zoos in the UK, including Colchester Zoo and Woburn Safari Park currently use this system. Free contact places keepers at risk and traditionally relies on the use of an ankus or bullhook (a sturdy stick with a curved, pointed tip). The bullhook is frequently referred to as a guide, yet this method of handling elephants relies on coercion and the reinforcement of painful or aversive stimuli. Free contact handling is acknowledged to be associated with keeper injury and death. 

We believe that protected contact, where the keeper and the elephant are separated by a barrier, is preferable to free contact. While elephants are in captivity, only positive, reward-based training should be used to allow procedures to be performed co-operatively, such as the examination of body parts and for veterinary procedures.

Born Free is calling for an end to the use of the bullhook and measures to make protected contact through safety barriers standard practice across all UK zoos with elephants.

OUR ELEPHANT-FREE UK CAMPAIGN

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