Elephant kills a zookeeper with a single blow from her powerful trunk

Cabarceno Natural Park Elephants
A pair of African Elephants head to head in Cabarceno Natural Park in Cantabria, Spain on September 19, 2017. Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Spanish zookeeper has died after an elephant struck him with her trunk, throwing him onto her enclosure’s iron bars.

Joaquin Gutierrez Arnaiz, 44, had been doing the daily cleaning in the elephant’s enclosure with other staff members in Cabarceno Natural Park in Cantabria, Spain, the Independent reported.

Gutierrez Arnaiz was in an outdoor patio area, washing down the surfaces when the 4,000kg African elephant struck him with her trunk, causing his head to hit the bars of the pen, according to CNN.

Two of his colleagues called for help. He was rushed to Marques de Valdecilla University Hospital, where he died from injuries some three hours later, a statement from Cabarceno Natural Park said.

The elephant, suspected to be pregnant, had a foot infection which Gutierrez Arnaiz was monitoring. She had also been sharing her compound with her calf at the time of the fatal blow, AP noted.

Cantabria’s Minister Tourism, Francisco Javier López Marcano, said in the statement: “We are deeply shocked. Cabárceno loses a person much loved his peers and a hard-working and dedicated caregiver for almost two decades.”

López Marcano also told AFP: “We’re talking about unpredictable animals. The force of the strike was tremendous, of a magnitude that one could not survive.”

Cabarceno Natural Park includes a 61-acre elephant habitat with 20 elephants. It is also home to some 120 others, including lions and tigers, but this is the first fatal incident in its 30-year history.

Last year, a 46-year-old zookeeper was attacked by a 197kg gorilla named Malabo at Madrid Zoo Aquarium. Although she survived, both her arms were broken, and she suffered chest and head injuries.