Woman killed by elephant

Last updated 17:53 25/04/2012
Jumbo the elephant
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
BEFORE RETIRMENT: Mila, also known as Jumbo, in her circus performing days, with her former handler Tony Ratcliffe.
Jumbo the elephant
Supplied
RETIREMENT HOME: Mila at Franklin Zoo in Tuakau.

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A keeper has been killed at a zoo near Auckland after an elephant crushed her.

Emergency services say the woman died at the Franklin Zoo in Tuakau about 4.30pm today. TV3 reported the elephant crushed the keeper.

The death has been referred to the coroner.

Franklin Zoo, based in Tuakau south-west of Auckland, is the home of Jumbo (Mila) the elephant an ex-circus African elephant that was rescued by the zoo.

Tony Ratcliffe, her circus handler for 28 years, told media outside the zoo he was "gutted" to hear about the incident.

A Department of Labour spokeswoman said the department had been advised of the fatality and was making preliminary inquiries.

She did not have any further information.

On the zoo's website, sanctuary director and veterinarian Dr Helen Schofield said Jumbo has settled in to her life at the Sanctuary well and has developed close and affectionate relationships with her team of keepers.

"Jumbo is responding well to her operant conditioning and protected care management. The program allows keepers to manage her through a protected wall, and is based solely on positive feedback.

"She is responding well by presenting feet for care, all parts of her body for washing, rub downs and other health care procedures."

"Our dream for Jumbo is to get her in a situation where she can have other African elephants for company; most elephant sanctuaries around the world manage their elephants using these procedures so she will understand them if and when it comes time to move.”

A woman who lives in a property neighbouring the zoo, who declined to be named, said she had seen the activity at the zoo when the ambulances arrived.

"We look out and see the elephant every day," she said. "I don't think it's very friendly. It hasn't had a very happy life."

Jumbo, New Zealand's only African elephant, spent 28 years as a circus elephant before she was given to the SPCA, who found a retirement home for her at the Franklin Zoo.

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- Fairfax Media

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