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Activists Protest Zoo Measure Over Elephant Handling

Animal rights-activists gathered at the Oregon Zoo in Portland Thursday. They were there to protest the treatment of elephants and urge voters to reject the zoo's bond measure on the November ballot. Becca Bartleson reports.

Zoo keepers routinely use what's called an ankus, or bull hook, to  handle elephants. They call it the free contact method.

In Defense of Animals opposes that method, saying the sharp tool causes lacerations.

The group says it will not support the bond unless the zoo pledges to use other handling methods Phil Prewett is a keeper at the Oregon Zoo.

Phil Prewett: "I just can’t see signing away a hundred and twenty-five million dollars without saying we will indeed protect these animals and treat them humanely which can not be done in the free contact system."

Zoo Director Tony Vecchio says he supports free contact because it allows keepers to be closer to the elephants.

Tony Vecchio: "They develop a great bond with the elephants. If you could ever watch our elephant keepers with the animals you’d see what an incredible relationship they have cause they love those elephants."

The zoo was fined in 2000 for numerous ankus wounds sustained by Rose-Tu.

The zoo says it was an isolated incident.

$19 million of the zoo bond would go to expand the elephant enclosure.