Zoo, home to killer elephant, closes
Sun, 15 Jul 2012 3:45p.m.
A south Auckland zoo where a keeper was crushed to death by an elephant is closing and the fate of its 420 animals, including the killer beast, is up in the air.
Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary operator, director, vet and elephant programme manager Dr Helen Schofield, 42, was killed by three-tonne Mila when she tried to comfort the ex-circus elephant in April.
Dr Schofield volunteered most of her time at the zoo where she worked for six and a half years.
The zoo has been closed to the public since the accident and Dr Schofield's sister Jenny Chung and other staff have been trying to raise funds to keep it going.
Ms Chung said $1.4 million was needed for the zoo, including transfer costs for moving Mila to a yet to be decided overseas sanctuary.
But costs were too high and staff too difficult to find, so this week trustees of the zoo decided to permanently close the gates after seven years.
Mila's fate is still unknown, but donations have been coming in, Ms Chung said.
Dr Schofield had been working towards Mila's relocation when she died.
"We're not going to give up," Ms Chung said.
"Helen wouldn't have wanted us to give up and her dream for Mila was to see her with other elephants."
Staff are working with the Australasian Zoo and Aquarium Association and the Ministry for Primary Industries to find homes for the 420 animals, including monkeys, zebras and lemurs.
Mila and the other animals are being cared for by a team of zoo keepers, including staff from zoos in Auckland and Hamilton.
No other zoo in New Zealand has the facilities to host Mila.
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