Grief over woman killed by elephant
By Tom McRae
It has been a day of grieving for friends and family of Helen Schofield, the woman killed by an elephant at Franklin Zoo.
And much more has emerged about her and the relationship the owner of the zoo had with the animal called Mila.
Ms Schofield spent the last two years of her life rehabilitating and caring for Mila the elephant and starred on TVNZ 7's Animal Academy.
A neighbour to the zoo Bill Currie knew of the affection between Ms Schofield and Mila.
“It wasn't very long ago that Helen told me "the elephant loves me".”
“Everybody is in shock cause she was a lovely lady and she worked hard to build what is a good facility in the community here.”
Ms Schofield was the director and owner of Franklin Zoo.
According to friends, she received Mila as a traumatised circus animal but quickly helped her recover by letting her roam in the open spaces around the Tuakau sanctuary.
A friend of Ms Schofield, Daren McDonald says she was dedicated to the elephant.
“She would spent 24 hours a day literally looking after it and she even had a couch where she would sleep next to the elephant in case it needed help.”
The zoo has been temporarily closed as investigations continue into how the tragedy came about.
Whether to put the elephant down, is still being debated, but staff from Auckland Zoo have been comforting Mila since late last night.
“We've got our team of keepers working with her, she's feeding and slept some last night,” Auckland Zoo life sciences manager Kevin Buley says.
Auckland Zoo vet Jakob-Hoff Senior says the size difference between humans and elephants is a risk.
“The mere fact that it's such a large animal and we are so small means that even an accident can cause a major injury.”
Ms Schofield was a qualified vet who had been helping train five Unitec students every year.
Unitec head of natural sciences Lorne Roberts says Ms Schofield was competent and professional.
“If you went to Franklin Zoo the keepers are ex students of ours and hers. She saw the training and development of students as crucial to the future of zoos.”
Ms Schofield's mother and daughter are understood to live at Franklin Zoo.
They spent the day grieving with family and friends and released a statement on Facebook thanking everyone for their support.