Williston elephant mishap under investigation

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

State officials are still investigating an incident involving an elephant at Williston’s Two Tails Ranch that left a woman critically injured and unable to talk about what happened.

“It’s definitely still under investiagtion,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Karen Parker said Tuesday morning. “We don’t really know what happened.”

The injured woman, still critical in the hospital, was found at the ranch, owned by Patricia Zerbini, Aug. 26, Parker said, but there were no witnesses to the incident, just “a lot of assumptions.”

The elephant suspected of causing the injuries is a sub-adult Asian elephant named Rajah, Parker said, but it’s unclear if the animal attacked the woman, as alleged by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in a press release sent out Friday.

PETA, receiving an anonymous tip on the matter, alerted FWC Sept. 17, according to Parker.

“Like all circuses that use elephants, Tarzan Zerbini uses bullhooks—sharp metal-tipped weapons that resemble fireplace pokers—and forced to obey, perform tricks, and give rides out of fear of physical punishment. Experts have confirmed that elephants who are subject to bullhook abuse are more prone to unpredictable acts of aggression,”the PETA press release stated.

PETA also claims that the incident is the sixth confirmed “serious elephant attack associated with the Zerbinis.”

But Parker said in a follow-up email that there are no previous violations listed for Zerbini with the Williston ranch, and, she added, the ranch, which has been running since 1984, is up to date on inspections.

Zerbini was unavailable for comment as of press time.

Information provided by the business online states that the ranch has had more than 250 African and Asian elephants stay at the facility throughout the years.

“Some stayed temporarily while their own exhibits were being remodeled or built. Others stayed for retirement, medical needs, behavior problems or even in emergencies after hurricanes destroyed their zoos,” the website stated.

Although still being investigated, Parker said that if a charge is made by FWC it would most likely relate to creating an unsafe condition that resulted in the injury of a person, a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.