DawnWatch: Joanna Burke, beloved member of The Elephant Sanctuary team, is killed 7/21/06

July 23rd, 2006 9:29 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Jul 23, 2006 5:21 PM
Subject: DawnWatch: Joanna Burke, beloved member of The Elephant Sanctuary team, is killed 7/21/06

Many in the animal advocacy community have already heard the devastating news, that Joanne Burke, a handler at Carol Buckley’s wonderful elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, was killed on Friday, July 21, by Winkie.

The news was in the Saturday edition of many papers and on the USA Today website. The USA Today story, headed “Elephant kills handler in Tennessee sanctuary,” opens:

“A 36-year-old woman whose love for pachyderms led her from her native Maine to rural Lewis County, Tenn., was attacked and killed Friday morning at a preserve for aging elephants, authorities said.

Also, a man who handles the 22 Asian and African elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary was injured and hospitalized late Friday at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tenn.”

(At the time, their names had not been released. We now know that Joanna was killed instantly and that Scott Blais, who tried to help, has been released from the hospital with minor injuries.)

We read that Joanna, according to Doug Markham, spokesman for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, “was apparently on the side where the elephant had an injury, an eye injury.”


“This was not the first time Winkie, born in Burma (now called Myanmar) and captured as a calf, had tried to harm a handler. According to the sanctuary’s website, the animal hurt several keepers at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis., her former home for three decades. The organization’s website indicated that Winkie had adjusted to her new home and roommates.”

Joanna, one of the sanctuary’s first employees, had been there for eight years.

You can read the USA Today article on line at http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/… and send a letter to editor, against capturing or breeding wild animals for human entertainment, to USA Today at http://asp.usatoday.com/marketing/feedback/… OR http://tinyurl.com/cee7y

And if you see the story in your paper, please write, on Joanna’s behalf.

On the sanctuary’s website you can read a touching tribute to Joanna, see photos of her with “her girls” and read part of an email written the day before she died in which she reaffirms her commitment to her mission.

The tribute tells us:

“Joanna made it perfectly clear in word and deed that no harm should come to any elephant no matter their action. She shared the Sanctuary’s philosophy that Winkie will not be punished for her actions but managed in a way that keeps another innocent caregiver out of harm’s way. ”


“Joanna’s wish was to be buried on Sanctuary grounds; on the land that inspired her, with the elephants that she loved so dearly. Joanna’s human family will arrive on Saturday to be with her friends and elephant family. More information will be provided when burial arrangements have been made. More information regarding Winkie and the circumstances surrounding this tragic accident will be released shortly.

“Joanna has left her heart print on our hearts and on our souls. All who loved her, elephant and human, are struggling with our loss.”

Go to http://elephants.com/pr/joanna_burke.htm for more.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. To unsubscribe, go to http://www.dawnwatch.com/cgi-bin/dada/dawnwatch_unsubscribe.cgi
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