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Woman killed by elephant at zoo

06:30 Thu Apr 26 2012
AAP

A woman keeper has been killed by an elephant at Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary, south of Auckland.

Emergency services were called to the zoo about 4.30pm on Wednesday.

The woman was in the enclosure when the elephant got a sudden fright and wrapped its trunk around her, 3News reported.

The dead woman is understood to be Mila's sole keeper, Helen Schofield, the owner and director of the zoo.

Mila, an African elephant formerly known as Jumbo, moved to the zoo in 2009 after being the centre of a campaign by animal rights groups. She had been in the care of the SPCA after finishing a career with Weber Brothers Circus.

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

The zoo cares for exotic and native animals being retired or re-homed. It purchased and retired the last circus lions in New Zealand in 2006, and is home to more than 300 birds and animals.