The death of a zoo keeper killed by an African elephant at Franklin Zoo near Tuakau is being described as a tragic accident.
Dr Helen Schofield was the director and veterinarian at the zoo.
She was killed yesterday afternoon by a 39-year-old former circus elephant.
Mila is the zoo's only elephant.
Save Animals From Exploitation executive director Hans Kriek says he's kept in regular contact with the zoo to see how Mila's been doing since leaving the circus.
He understands Dr Schofield and Mila had a good relationship and were getting on quite well.
Mr Kriek says he spoke to Helen Schofield two days ago about a new home for the animal.
"When she rang me up really excited saying that she was arranging travel to the United states to go and visit the sanctuary and to discuss the transfer of Mila."
Mr Kriek says Mila spent 30 years in solitary confinement in a circus, where she played up a lot of the time.
"She's a big animal, a wild animal and therefore very dangerous."
A man who knows Mila the elephant well says she's never been a safe animal.
Richard worked for the circus that once owned the elephant and kept her on his rural Waikato property for a number of weeks when the circus folded.
He says one day he started up his bob-cat and Mila charged him, with her ears and trunk up.
Her former handler, circus ringmaster Tony Ratcliffe, yelled at her and came rushing over with a large hook to stop the attack.
Richard says Tony Ratcliffe is the only person who can control Mila.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will take over the responsibility for the welfare and containment of exotic animals held at Franklin Zoo, as Dr Schofield was the approved zoo operator
MAF Spokesman Roger Smith says until another operator is appointed to replace Dr Schofield, MAF will take appropriate statutory actions to ensure the welfare and containment of the animals.
He says staff are meeting with Franklin Zoo today to discuss the future management plans for the zoo and the animals.
Mr Smith says no decisions have yet been made.
Auckland Zoo Life Sciences Manager Kevin Buley says their priority is ensuring staff are well supported and the animals are cared for.
"So to think about the longer term plans or implications for Mila or the zoo, we're not prepared to think about that, we'll deal with one day at a time."
The Department of Labour will be on site this afternoon to start an interim investigation.
Staff from Auckland Zoo are at Franklin Zoo today assisting with caring for the animals and supporting affected staff.
Photo: NZ Herald