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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 19:39 GMT
Crush elephant had violent past
Asian elephant
Mr Hughes was crushed by a four ton Asian elephant
An elephant that killed a keeper at Chester Zoo was involved in other violent attacks within the past year, it has been revealed.

Kumara, a 34-year-old female Asian elephant, killed senior keeper Richard Hughes.

Pat Cade, a spokewoman for Chester Zoo, told the BBC that a year ago another keeper was attacked.

She said Kumara had been aggressive in the past with other keepers, but these incidents were not regarded as serious and the zoo had no reason to believe she would attack Mr Hughes.

Elephant enclosure
The elephant enclosure at Chester Zoo remains closed
Animal keepers are in protected contact with the elephant and her enclosure remains closed while checks are carried out by the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr Hughes, 34, was attacked by the elephant on 8 February and never regained consciousness. He died at the weekend.

Mr Hughes, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was moving the elephant from the indoor enclosure at the zoo when he was pinned to the wall by her trunk.

The keeping staff in particular will miss him, not only as a valued colleague but also as an excellent friend

Chester Zoo director Professor Gordon McGregor Reid
His father Brian said his son was aware of the dangers of the job adding: "Richard eats, sleeps and breathes elephants."

He had worked up from being a junior keeper at a wildlife park in Northamptonshire to becoming a senior keeper at Chester Zoo in January three years ago.

Staff at the zoo said Mr Hughes regarded being the senior keeper as his "dream job".

He was due to deliver a presentation at the International Elephant and Rhinocerous Research meeting in Vienna this year.

Staff at Chester Zoo expressed their condolences to Mr Hughes' family, who also live in Stoke-on-Trent.

Chester Zoo director Professor Gordon McGregor Reid said: "All the staff are devastated at this sad news. The keeping staff in particular will miss him, not only as a valued colleague but also as an excellent friend.

"Our thoughts and sympathy are with Richard's family."

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08 Feb 00 | UK
Killer elephant spared
07 Feb 00 | UK
Elephant crushes keeper
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