The infamous elephant bite lawsuit at Jungle Habitat
While a lot of nostalgic attention has been paid to the semi-tragic history of Action Park, today is the day to remember another hazardous New Jersey attraction, Jungle Habitat, and it was on July 8th, 1974 that one of its most notorious incidents took place.
Jungle Habitat was a Warner Brothers owned drive through safari type park in West Milford that existed from 1972-76. The park contained 1,500 animals including monkeys, elephants, lions, and tigers. On July 8, 1974, a sixty eight year old visitor from Long Island was grabbed by the trunk of a baby elephant which then slammed her against a fence and bit her. The woman, Elizabeth Ennis, was later awarded $200,000 by a court.
In an account in the New York Times, she claimed the elephant bit her on her right hand and, because of the trauma incurred by being slammed into the fence, she had persistent pain in her right side that prevented her from lifting heavy items; her husband was awarded $5,000 for loss of companionship.
It was not the first time the park had been in trouble, however. Shortly after the park opened in 1972, a 26 year old Israeli tourist, Abraham Levy, was driving through the park when he was attacked by a lion suffering lacerations to his face and shoulder. According to the website Weird NJ, Levy later took responsibility for the incident.
Another persistent problem for the park were the near constant rumors of escaped animals. At least one of those reports was true: two wolves escaped but were captured without incident. Other animal sightings were reported by residents of West Milford, but the reports of loose baboons, emus were not confirmed. The animals also had a tendency to damage the cars that passed through; an e-museum for the park, says that there were tigers that liked to bite (and pop) car tires and monkeys that liked to rip antennas off of cars.
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The park closed in 1976 after local residents voted down a variance that would have allowed the park to expand. There are rumors that many animals were just set loose when the park closed, again, being spotted by locals, but those also were never confirmed. What was confirmed, however, was the mound of animal carcasses left behind. According to Weird NJ, the pile grew to 30 animals, including an elephant, a camel, zebras, and bison. The corpses were left there from October of 1976, when the park closed, to April of 1977. The land was purchased by the state in 1988 and is now a park, but sightings of non-indigenous animals in the area are still reported.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.