Asian Elephant Keeper Lucy Melo. Picture: Jeff Darmanin Source: The Daily Telegraph
Elephant crushes keeper at Sydney zoo
A female keeper is in a critical condition after being crushed by an elephant at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
Lucy Melo playing with one of her charges. Picture: Jeff Darmanin Source: The Daily Telegraph
THE woman keeper crushed by a two-year-old elephant at Taronga Zoo went into cardiac arrest shortly after telling paramedics of her ordeal.
Acting Inspector Andrew Wood said two ambulance teams worked for five minutes to restart 40-year-old senior keeper Lucy Melo’s heart.
Ms Melo was carrying out routine training with Pathi Harn, a young male elephant, when she was pinned against a bollard and critically injured.
“Earlier on this morning paramedic crews responded to a triple zero call at Taronga Zoo where a female zoo worker had been crushed up against a bollard at the zoo by an elephant inside the enclosure,” Mr Wood said.
“When ambulance crews arrived the patient was conscious and talking to them,” he said.
“She did briefly tell them what had happened.”
Mr Wood said it was unusual for a persons heart to be stopped for so long and crews continued to provide her lungs with oxygen.
“She has pretty serious injuries.”
The woman is now in a critical condition at Royal North Shore Hospital.
It’s a cruel blow to the 40-year-old woman who has dedicated the past decade to caring for elephants.
On the zoo’s website, Ms Melo details her love of animals, most of all, elephants.
Every day I work with animals is amazing, but the highlights are definitely the births of our elephant calves, as well as flying in a jumbo jet with the elephants,” Ms Melo said.
“The one on one relationships that I have with the elephants. They are just like people, only better.”
“Having a connection with an animal is extremely satisfying and therapeutic. They truly give you unconditional love. I also feel proud that the work that we are doing is making a difference, and helping to save Asian Elephants from extinction.”
The elephant at the centre of the tragedy Pathi Harn became famously known as “Mr Shuffles” in March 2010 after a dramatic birth at Taronga.
He was pronounced dead after he was stuck in his mother’s womb, only to be born the next day. He was nicknamed Mr Shuffles because he dragged his feet as he tried to walk.
The zoo has said it did not know what caused the elephant to “challenge” the keeper.
An announcement over the PA system said the 1pm elephant show was cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”.
Earlier, the elephant enclosure at Taronga Zoo was shut off to the public, while zoo staff investigating the terrible accident.
A group of school students said they saw paramedics rushing to the enclosure, escorted by zoo staff.
It is understood the keeper was pinned against the bollard in an internal part of the enclosure, which is not clearly visible to the public.
A NSW ambulance spokeswoman said emergency services received a report that an elephant had pushed someone over.
The initial caller told emergency services the woman had suffered chest and back injuries, an ambulance spokeswoman said.
The patient was unconscious and had stopped breathing when paramedics arrived on the scene.
The zoo has two young males, both born two years ago – Pathi Han, whose name means “miracle”, and Luk Chai, whose name means “son.”’
The zoo says that two other keepers in an adjoining stall heard the keeper’s calls and moved the elephant away.
Senior Taronga staff have accompanied the keeper to Royal North Shore Hospital to provide ongoing support, the zoos aid.
WorkCover NSW is investigating the incident.
“Initial inquiries indicate that the zoo keeper suffered serious crush injuries while working in the elephant enclosure,” it said in a statement.
“WorkCover inspectors are attending the scene and will commence inquiries into the cause and systems of work at the time of the incident.”
“The public were not at risk at any time and the elephants are now in their paddock at the Zoo.”
Taronga Zoo @tarongazoo tweeted “A keeper was injured by a young elephant during routine training & has been taken to hospital. Will give updates ASAP. Public not at risk.”
Taronga’s eight Asian elephants are not only an important part of the zoo but also the worldwide conservation programme.
The male, Gung, is one of only three breeding males in Australia.
The others are the matriarch Porntip, her two-year-old calf Pathi Hari, Pak Boon, who is the largest in the group, and her two-year-old calf Tukta, Thong Dee, who is a former street elephant from Bangkok, and her three-year-olf calf Luk Chai, and Tang Mo.
On its website, the zoo says the elephants came from domestic elephant camps throughout Thailand.
“Prior to coming to Australia they had lived most of their lives in these tourist camps and some had spent time on city streets begging for food and money from tourists. Now they are here in Sydney the group has formed into a strong family unit and are given everything they need to be happy young elephants,” the website says.