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A file photo shows an elephant in the Rabat zoo, in 2008. (ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

"Unpredictable and strange"

Elephant throws stone with trunk, killing 7-year-old girl

By WITW Staff on July 29, 2016

A bizarre tragedy unfolded on Tuesday at Rabat zoo in Morocco, when a 7-year-old girl died after being struck by a large stone thrown by an elephant. It is believed that the girl had been lifted onto her father’s shoulders to better see the animals when one of the elephants picked up a stone with its trunk and threw it. The stone, which was nearly the size of half a brick, struck the girl in the back of the head and knocked her unconscious. Graphic video shot by a visitor on the scene showed efforts by bystanders to stem the bleeding while the child waited for an ambulance. She later died at the hospital.

Experts said it was unusual for elephants to throw stones, but that such behavior can occur when the animals become frustrated or bored. “It’s unlikely the elephant was directly targeting the girl but exhibiting frustration. You can’t predict what animals in captivity will do,” explained Phyllis Lee, scientific director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

Rabat zoo has issued a statement offering condolences to the girl’s family, but denying responsibility for the tragedy. Calling the girl’s death “rare, unpredictable, and strange,” the zoo said that the enclosure complied with international standards and that similar incidents had also played out recently in the US.

In May, zoo staff had to shoot a 17-year-old gorilla after a three-year-old boy entered its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. In June, a two-year-old died after being attacked by an alligator on the shoreline of the Seven Seas Lagoon, an artificial lake near Disney World in Orlando.

The elephant that threw the rock, caught on video by an onlooker. (Jadid247/YouTube)
The elephant that threw the rock, caught on video by an onlooker. (Jadid247/YouTube)

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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