Elephant Attack Leads to Williston Ranch Investigation
An elephant attack in Williston that resulted in the hospitalization of the victim is prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to investigate.
The incident occurred on Aug. 26 at Two Tails Ranch, a privately owned elephant facility linked to the Tarzan Zerbini Circus. The organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals received an anonymous tip about the attack, and the FWC was alerted and began investigating on Sept. 17.
The investigation has started, but little progress can be made until the investigator speaks with the woman who was attacked, according to FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker.
"Unfortunately, he has not been able to interview the victim, so we don't know exactly what occurred," Parker said. "Until he does get a chance to interview her, we aren't going to know. There were no witnesses to the incident."
Parker said the victim remains hospitalized with life threatening injuries and is unable to speak. Her identity has not been released.
Patricia Zerbini, the owner and operator of the ranch, has a long history of working with exotic animals. Zerbini began training elephants when she was 14, following experience dealing with lions and tigers in her father's animal show.
Animals that pose a threat to humans fall under the category of Class I wildlife, and require a special permit from the FWC to own. Class I animals include animals such as elephants, lions and tigers. Applicants will only be approved if they fully meet the standards for the license.
"When they have Class I animals like that, they are known to be a danger to people," Parker said. "They have to show they have experience with these animals. They have to meet specific cage requirements. They have to meet specific care and feeding of the animals. There's a long, long list of things they have to provide for the animals and for the safety of the folks working around the animals."
Although the investigation is incomplete, Two Tails Ranch may be cited for dangerous conditions that led to the injury of another person, Parker said.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the incident, any action taken against the ranch will await the results of the investigation, and shutting down the ranch is not being discussed by the FWC.
"That's not even being spoken of. We would have to conclude our investigation and go from there," Parker said. "It would all depend on what happened."
This incident is not the first time Zerbini has been investigated for elephant treatment and behavior. August's incident marks the sixth confirmed elephant attack associated with the circus and Two Tails Ranch.