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A veteran zookeeper at a zoo in southwest Missouri was killed Friday morning while working with one of the zoo’s elephants.
The zookeeper, 62-year-old John Bradford, was moving one of the Dickerson Park Zoo’s longtime residents, 41-year-old elephant Patience, into a chute that connects the elephant barn with the yard outside.
City spokeswoman Cora Scott said that Patience was uncertain about entering the chute, according to the San Francisco Gate. When Bradford tried to get her to move forward, she made a sudden movement and knocked him into the chute.
The elephant then crushed Bradford against the floor, killing him. Other zookeepers who were present pulled the elephant away, but it was too late.
Zoo officials are puzzled as to why Patience, who has been at the zoo since 1990, lunged at Bradford so suddenly.
The zoo will not be disciplining or euthanizing the elephant, reports the BBC. They recently had to put down another elephant that was suffering from kidney disease.
Patience has been cited as having a history of aggression.
Bradford, who had been with the zoo for 30 years, was one of many who helped build the zoo’s elephant program into what it is today, according to the Springfield News-Leader. Co-workers say that Bradford had an extreme fondness for the elephants.
"This is very sad day for the zoo family, as well as our community as a whole," zoo director Mike Crocker said in a statement.
The park opened as usual on Friday, but the elephant exhibit remained closed for the day.