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from This is London

    Zoo reopened after keeper's death

22 October 2001

by Peter Gruner

London Zoo re-opened today after the death of keeper Jim Robson who was crushed by one of the elephants he looked after.

The Regent's Park attraction was closed yesterday as a mark of respect to Mr Robson who worked at the zoo for 26 years. He died on Saturday from multiple injuries after he slipped and the three-and-a-half ton animal stamped on him.

A post mortem is due to be held in the coming days as animal scientists and management meet to decide the fate of the female animal. However, it is unlikely that she will be put down, with friends and colleagues of the dead man saying it is certain that he would not have wanted the elephant harmed.

London Zoo has launched an investigation, as have the police, the Health and Safety Executive and Westminster council, but much of what happened is already known.

The tragedy now appears to have been an accident rather than a case of an angry elephant attacking its keeper. Mr Robson, 44, who spent 16 years looking after the zoo's elephants, was brushing down Dilberta - one of three female Asian elephants he was feeding in their enclosure - when he slipped and fell. The animal then stepped on him and, according to reports, rolled on to him.

As horrified members of the public looked on, zoo staff rushed to help, forcing the three panicking animals inside the elephant house. Paramedics airlifted Mr Robson to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead just after 2pm but he died after sustaining massive internal injuries

The accident has left staff devastated said John Edwards, a historian and Fellow of the Zoological Society of London - the zoo's governing body.

"He lived for his work, but it wasn't just a job, it was his hobby and his life," he said. "If anyone understood elephants, he did, which makes this accident all the more extraordinary. He was often in the library doing research about his animals. This is a dreadful loss, we're all very upset."

A statement from Mr Robson's family said: "We're so proud of the work he was doing at London Zoo and we know how much he loved looking after the elephants."

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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