That’s no escaped elephant; it’s only a drill at Denver Zoo |

That’s no escaped elephant; it’s only a drill at Denver Zoo

Alan Gathright and Bill Scanlon
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Oops!

A citizen’s call to Denver police dispatchers this afternoon sparked a momentary fear that an elephant had escaped from its enclosure at Colorado’s Denver Zoo and had injured a keeper.

But Denver Zoo spokeswomen called media moments later to assure them that it was all just a drill.

“All the animals are fine,” Tiffany Barnhart, of the Denver Zoo, said this afternoon. “We’re running a drill. Someone got confused in the public and called the police.

“But no one was hurt. There was no escape. No animal has come close to escaping.”

Barnhart said the zoo runs drills about five times a year, to stay sharp. This scenario involved what to do if an elephant got loose.

Someone apparently called police dispatch and the word spread ” but just for a few minutes.

The Rocky Mountain News wasn’t sleeping, reacting so fast that it confirmed the report with police and got out an alert on the escaped elephant just before word came that it was just a drill ” and just in time to perhaps confuse a few readers.

Rocky staffers heard of an escaped elephant over the police scanner and jumped into action.

“They have a roaming elephant,” a Denver police dispatcher told the News.

“Believe it or not they don’t know where it is,” she added. “It looks like the keeper is injured, but it doesn’t say how bad.”

A news alert went out from the Rocky’s Web site with word of the escape; another alert was sent a couple of minutes later ” about 2 p.m. ” with word of the drill.

As the confusion cleared, another police dispatcher said: “They were doing training without letting anyone know.

“I just know that we got a report of it and it turned out that it was just training,” he said.

CBS4 News got its helicopter in the air, and headed for the zoo, before getting the word that it was just a drill.

The zoo then sent out a short press release titled “NO ESCAPE.”

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