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Elephant Burma’s escape short lived

23 January 2004

Elephant Burma’s escape short lived

In the early hours of this morning, Burma, Auckland Zoo’s 20 year old elephant cow, had taken a large log in her enclosure, dropped this on an electric fence, resulting in the fence becoming inactive.

She then proceeded to climb into a moat, walk along the Zoo fence line to a gate, which she then crashed through, gaining access to the Western Springs Park. During the day both elephants are under direct control of staff, and it is only during the warm summer months that they are allowed access to their outdoor enclosure overnight. The gate was broken at 7.40am. By 7.55am, she had been sighted in the bush patch directly above the elephant paddock and by 8.05am was under direct control of the Elephant Team, who then proceeded to walk her back to her enclosure. She was secured within the enclosure and reunited with Kashin by 8.25am. Apart from the Zoo fence, there was no damage to property or persons, or to Burma herself. She was however a little shaken and both the girls were clearly happy to be reunited.

Members of the public notified a Zoo staff member at 7.25am that Burma was outside of her enclosure and up against the Zoo fence. This staff member was not an elephant keeper, and as per Zoo protocol was not allowed to approach or attempt to control the elephant. His immediate response was to locate the elephant keepers on site. Four elephant keepers were at the scene within minutes. The Zoo management would like to thank these members of the public. The Zoo would also like to thank the New Zealand Police from the Avondale Police Station for their prompt response, and for thoroughly following the procedures as have previously been agreed. The Auckland City Call Centre was immediately able to access the Zoo Emergency Protocol, which resulted in good teamwork between Zoo staff and the New Zealand Police. The New Zealand Police immediately secured the area to ensure public safety and assist Zoo staff with the animal escape, if required to do so by the staff. As per her daily routine, Burma was immediately under direct control of staff when reunited at 8.05am.

Zoo management have discussed the incident with the New Zealand Police and MAF, who are the immediate point of call should there be an animal escape. While procedures can always be tweaked, all three parties concerned are satisfied with the way it was handled, and the result. At this stage, Zoo management are looking at strengthening the fence line and until this has been implemented both elephants will be secured indoors overnight and under direct control of staff, as is the current situation during the day.

Over the next few days staff will be particularly vigilant to ensure that Burma does not attempt to reinact her escapade. There are no signs of trauma to Burma as a result of this event, and she appears to be back to her usual self.


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