Elephant calf inadvertently killed by herd in Zurich zoo

The herd encouraged the newborn to stand up but their efforts became more frantic when it did not respond. Zoo Zürich, Albert Schmidmeister

An investigation into the death of a male elephant calf has concluded that it was accidentally killed by the herd. 

This content was published on November 2, 2020 - 15:54

On August 19, 2020, an elephant cow named Omysha gave birth to her first calf. It was subsequently kicked to death by the herd, prompting an internal investigation. Now, zoo authorities claim that the reaction of the herd members in the first minutes after birth was normal. The herd encouraged the newborn to stand up using their heads, trunk and feet. However, the increasingly violent efforts to help the calf – due to a lack of response from the newborn – to stand up eventually led to the death of the animal.

“Experts agree that the behaviour of the herd members after birth cannot be classified as aggressive in this case,” said the zoo in a statement released on Monday.

An assessment of the video recordings, with the help of external zoologists and elephant experts from the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), concluded that calf barely moved after birth. One reason could be that it was weakened as a result of a longer than normal delivery. No birth abnormalities were detected in the post-mortem examination.

The zoo insists that it will continue with its practice of facilitating births in a natural social environment for all its animals, including elephants. 

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