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April 26, 2017

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Aussie zoo keeper crushed by elephant 'stable'

SYDNEY -- Sydney's Taronga Zoo Saturday said a female keeper was in a stable condition in hospital 24 hours after being critically injured when a young elephant she had cared for all its life crushed her.

Lucy Melo, 40, was left battling for her life on Friday when the 2-year-old male calf Pathi Harn, which means "Miracle," unexpectedly pinned her against a fence during a routine training activity.

"We're all relieved to hear Lucy's condition remains stable and we're continuing to provide support for her family and her fellow keepers, while we continue our programs for the whole herd," Taronga's director Cameron Kerr said.

Melo was left unconscious and had stopped breathing for five minutes before being revived after the elephant, known at first as "Mr. Shuffles" because of its unsteady gait as a newborn, had pinned her against a bollard.

It is not known why the young elephant challenged its keeper.

"The Zoo's elephant herd, including the young male calf Pathi Harn, 2, which was involved in yesterday's incident, is calm and well and in the elephant paddock as usual," Taronga said in a statement.

"The elephant keepers are caring for the herd and continuing the normal daily activities to support the elephants, including Pathi Harn."

Taronga has launched an investigation into the accident that occurred while the zoo, a harbor-side institution popular with tourists, was open to the public.

Melo had worked with Pathi Harn since its traumatic birth in 2010.

The birth of the Asian elephant, part of a controversial breeding program that involved a herd of the animals being brought to Australia from Thailand, made headlines after it emerged alive after experts had written it off for dead.

The elephant was believed to have died during labour after becoming trapped in an awkward position in the womb from which experts said it would take a "miracle" to survive.

The breeding program aims to increase numbers of the endangered animals and Taronga Zoo now has eight in captivity.

Male Asian elephants can weigh at least five tons and be more than three meters (nine feet) tall.

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