Somerset elephant dies in attack

Keepers are "distraught" after a young elephant died in an attack involving another bull elephant, a zoo has said.

The 12-year-old African elephant, M'Changa, sustained fatal injuries in the incident at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall, near Bristol.

Another bull elephant had gone into the area where M'Changa was sleeping in the early hours of Friday, the zoo said.

An investigation and a review into what happened is under way.

Another two bull elephants, named Shaka and Janu, who were in the enclosure at the time of the incident and part of the same "male bachelor group" that had "successfully lived together for over three years", were unharmed, the zoo said.

In a statement, the zoo added: "Bull elephants are large and powerful animals. Their behaviour in the wild and in zoos can often typically be active, boisterous and can at times be aggressive.

"M'Changa, Shaka and Janu enjoyed special bonds as part of the group, often displaying brotherly relationships.

"Our dedicated team of Elephant keepers are understandably distraught over this recent event, and we are doing all that we can to support them during this difficult time."

'Social animals'

Larry Bush, the zoo's managing director, said: "M'Changa's loss will be felt very deeply," adding: " We will continue to help promote and contribute to the conservation of elephants into the future."

African Elephants are classed as endangered in the wild, where they are threatened by poaching for their ivory, as well as habitat loss and human population expansion.

After planning permission was granted for the 20-acre (8-hectare) "Elephant Eden" at the zoo in 2010, a number of animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA and Born Free Foundation, had expressed concerns over the elephants being kept in the zoo's captivity.

At the time, the zoo responded to the claims and said the enclosure was designed "to offer welfare improvements to elephants already living in captivity".

The zoo's statement over the death of M'Changa, who arrived in 2014 from Sweden, added: "The facility, Elephant Eden, has been previously commended on its best practice with specialist elephant keepers, 20 acres of space to roam and extensive efforts made for enrichment and sustaining healthy, active elephants.

"They are typically social animals so having the option of being together is an important part of elephant welfare."

The Zoo said it would now look at its future plans to establish the best way forward for its elephant programme.

A spokesman at the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) said it was saddened to hear of M'Changa's death.

"The bachelor elephant group at Noah's Ark plays a key supporting role serving wider African Elephant conservation efforts, as an important part of the European Endangered Species Programme," he said.