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Zookeeper crushed by elephant critical but stable


An Asian elephant calf plays with a ball at Taronga Zoo on July 4, 2010.


Brendon Thorne

The condition of an Australian zookeeper crushed by a young elephant appears to have improved slightly, with the hospital listing her condition as critical but stable.

Lucy Melo, 40, was pinned against a pole by the Asian elephant calf, Parthi Harn, during a routine training session to teach the elephants how to wash, The Associated Press reported.

Two other keepers at Taronga Zoo in Sydney heard her cries and came to her aid.

Melo was still conscious and spoke to paramedics but lapsed into unconsciousness and had a cardiac arrest for about five minutes.

The Sydney Morning Herald said Melo's husband, head elephant keeper Gary Miller, remained with her at Royal North Shore Hospital.

The family appealed for privacy and released a statement through the zoo's director, Cameron Kerr. 

"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," Kerr said.

Melo, 40, was still conscious when paramedics arrived and was able to tell them what had happened. But her condition soon deteriorated and she went into cardiac arrest for five minutes, the Herald Sun reported.

She was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital where she is in a critical but stable condition.

Meanwhile, the elephant, affectionately known as Mr Shuffles due to his laboured walking style, was back on show, wowing crowds as he gave himself a bath, reported.

CNN reported that the elephant calf was called Pathi Harn, which is the Thai word for “miracle.”

He earned the name after he was born alive after a difficult eight-day labor.

Taronga Zoo said in a statement that an investigation into what caused the incident was under way. 

"Our focus continues to be on the wellbeing of the keeper and supporting her fellow keepers,” Taronga Zoo director and chief executive Cameron Kerr said. 

“In the meantime, the investigation has already commenced so that we can understand exactly what occurred.”

An animal behaviorist told the AAP that the elephant calf may have been testing the authority of Melo.

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