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from The Oakland Tribune

    Zoo keeper badly hurt in attack by elephant
By Sandra Laville

Friday 9 February 2001

A ZOO keeper was in a critical condition in hospital last night after being butted by a female elephant as he opened her enclosure yesterday.

Richard Hughes, 34, was struck on the head and shoulders and knocked off his feet as he led the 30-year-old Asian elephant, Kumara, from her overnight shed at Chester Zoo. A colleague saw the incident and called for help. Mr Hughes was treated by paramedics in the elephant house before being taken to hospital.

A spokesman for Mersey Regional Ambulance said: "This was a serious incident. The patient was hit unconscious by the elephant's tusk and taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital, which was placed on standby." Mr Hughes drifted in and out of consciousness on the way to hospital but lapsed into unconsciousness shortly after his arrival.

A spokesman for Countess of Chester Hospital said last night that his condition was "critical". Mr Hughes's parents, who are from Stoke-on-Trent, and his girlfriend were at his bedside yesterday. The zoo, which keeps 10 Asian elephants, immediately launched an inquiry and announced that it would be closed today.

Cheshire Police said they were investigating the incident "as a matter of routine".

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2000

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