Killer elephant's fate undecided
Wellington - The fate of an elephant that crushed its keeper to death in New Zealand has not been decided, zoo officials said on Thursday, as animal welfare activists called for its life to be spared.
The 3-ton African elephant killed Helen Schofield, its handler and the owner of Franklin Zoo, near Auckland, on Wednesday.
Police have not revealed details of Schofield's death but media reports said the female elephant picked her up with its trunk and squeezed, killing her accidentally, rather than in a deliberate attack.
A spokesperson for Auckland Zoo, which has taken over operations at the Franklin Zoo following Schofield's death, said the elephant's future could not be determined until an investigation into the fatality was completed.
"She's fine, she's being cared for and she's keeping quiet," the spokesperson told AFP.
"But as far as her future goes, we're not making any decisions until the Department of Labour has completed its investigation. We don't know how long that will take."
The 30-year-old elephant was a former circus performer called Jumbo. It was relocated to the Franklin Zoo two years ago and renamed Mila.
Animal rights group Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) said the animal suffered mental trauma during its time at the circus and Schofield had planned to eventually ship it to a sanctuary for retired circus animals in California.
SAFE executive director Hans Kriek said Schofield's wishes should be honoured and the elephant sent to the United States, rather than being put down.
"The ideal outcome is that Mila live the rest of her life with other elephants, to enable her to fully rehabilitate," he said.
"That's the key thing with elephants, they need to live with other elephants because they are such social animals."