Mr Shuffles crushes zoo keeper
The “miracle” baby elephant that shot to fame as Mr Shuffles critically injured a female keeper when he crushed her against a bollard during a training session at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
THE “miracle” baby elephant that shot to fame as Mr Shuffles critically injured a female keeper when he crushed her against a bollard during a training session at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
The incident occurred shortly before 11.30am (AEDT) on Friday in the zoo’s elephant barn when Mr Shuffles, who has since been officially named Pathi Harn, “challenged” the woman and pinned her against the bollard.
On his first birthday last year the young calf weighed more than 500 kilograms.
The zoo’s director and chief executive Cameron Kerr told reporters members of the public may have witnessed the incident, as families and school groups were at the Sydney attraction at the time.
Mr Kerr said it was the first serious injury since the elephants had arrived in 2006.
“I am very, very concerned about the staff member that has been hurt, as are all of the team at the zoo,” he said.
“It is a very difficult time for us.”
Pathi Harn was affectionately known as Mr Shuffles because his early attempts at walking resembled the shuffle of an elderly man.
He was named Pathi Harn – the Thai word for miracle – because of his survival of a difficult birth. He was thought to be dead in his mother’s womb, but surprised Taronga keepers when he was born the next day.
The injured employee, named in media reports as senior elephant keeper Lucy Melo, was in the elephant barn on Friday, which has viewing windows so the public can see inside, when two-year-old Pathi Harn pinned her against the bollard.
Two other keepers heard their colleague cry out and moved the calf away.
Ms Melo was still conscious and talking when paramedics first arrived, an Ambulance NSW spokesman told AAP.
But she then lapsed into unconsciousness and had a cardiac arrest for about five minutes.
A second crew of intensive care paramedics managed to get her heart beating again and stabilise her on the way to Royal North Shore Hospital.
Zoo staff do not know why the animal challenged the keeper and an investigation has been launched.
WorkCover NSW has also announced an investigation.
An ambulance was seen making its way to the barn by zoo visitors, who were told over the public speaker that a planned elephant show had been cancelled.
The zoo’s domestic elephants, including Pathi Harn, were back in their paddock and were “calm and comfortable”, Mr Kerr said.
“There is a very close bond between our staff and their animals, across all sections of the zoo,” Mr Kerr added.
No members of the public were at risk during the incident, which happened as part of a “normal animal washing routine”, he said.
Ms Melo has worked at the zoo since 2004, following stints in the United States at Houston Zoo, Rio Grande Zoo and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, according to Taronga’s website.