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Family vigil for Sydney elephant keeper

Last updated 19:59 20/10/2012
Marco Del Grande

Pinned against a bollard: The paramedics who treated the Taronga Zoo female keeper.

Lucy Melo
Lucy Melo

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The family of crushed animal keeper Lucy Melo remain by her hospital bed after she was slammed against a pole by an elephant at Taronga Zoo.    

Her husband, head elephant keeper Gary Miller, was with her at Royal North Shore Hospital, where she was in a critical but stable condition today, as the family appealed for privacy, releasing a brief update through the zoo.

The zoo's director, Cameron Kerr, said: "We're all relieved to hear Lucy's condition remains stable and we're continuing to provide support for her family and her fellow keepers while we continue our programs for the whole herd."

Melo, 40, was crushed against a bollard yesterday by the one-tonne animal when she was working in the barn for Asian elephants. She suffered a cardiac arrest and it took five minutes for paramedics to revive her heart.

At Taronga Zoo it was business as usual, with Pathi Harn – the two-year-old male calf elephant responsible – on view with the rest of the group to zoo visitors.

A lunchtime talk scheduled by the elephant keepers was cancelled but there was no question over the future livelihood of the Asian elephant also known as Mr Shuffles.

A zoo spokesman, Mark Williams, said: "We are treating the whole herd as we would normally treat them. We are continuing to care for Pathi Harn as well as the rest of the herd."

Reports that he had been testing his authority over Melo could only be speculation at this stage, he said, and were a matter for the WorkCover investigation.

WorkCover will examine the proximity of the other keepers who went to her aid after hearing her shouts. There are procedures that staff work in pairs when they are dealing with dangerous animals.

Williams said: "There is a whole range of safety procedures and I believe that they were followed but that will have to  be considered in the investigation. We have comprehensive and well-tested safety policies. In terms of what happened it has to be assessed through the investigation by WorkCover."

Neither Taronga Zoo nor WorkCover were able to say if there was any CCTV recording of the incident.

Taronga Zoo keeps eight Asian elephants, five females and three males.

The youngest males are Pathi Harn, born in 2010, and Luk Chai, born in 2009.

A fully grown male Asian elephant can weigh up to 5000 kilograms.


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