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Zoo keepers are “distraught” at the death of an elephant after an attack involving another animal while it slept.

African elephant M’Changa, aged 12, was left with fatal injuries following the incident at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall, north Somerset.

It unfolded when another bull elephant went into the area where M’Changa was napping in the early hours of Friday morning.

A spokesman for the zoo described keepers as “distraught” and said a review was under way.

The investigation will include plans to establish “the best way forward” for the elephant programme at the site.

Larry Bush, managing director of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, said: “The Noah’s Ark team are incredibly passionate about all the animals at the zoo and M’Changa’s loss will be felt very deeply.

“He will be missed dearly by all staff as well as our members and visitors.

“We will continue to help promote and contribute to the conservation of elephants into the future.”

The zoo said its bull elephant group have 24-hour access to the outside and inside areas of their enclosure, with the option of being together an important part of their welfare.

Elephant Eden, where the group live, has specialist keepers, 20 acres of space to roam and “extensive efforts” for enrichment and sustaining healthy elephants, it added.

At the time of the incident, the zoo was not yet open to the public.

The other two bull elephants, Shaka and Janu, were unharmed.

Both M’Changa and Janu arrived at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in 2014, with Shaka following in 2018.

The zoo said they had successfully lived together for more than three years, after a “lengthy process of introduction”.

African Elephants are classed as endangered in the wild, where they are threatened by ivory poaching as well as habitat loss.

Research has shown that male elephants naturally leave their family herd in adolescence and then will often group together with other solitary males, forming a bachelor group.

In such groups, there will typically be one large dominant bull who will guide the younger bulls, resolve disputes and show dominance.

The Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm spokesman added: “Bull elephants are large and powerful animals.

“Their behaviour in the wild and in zoos, can often typically be active, boisterous and can at times be aggressive.

“Many keepers and visitors alike have shared their passion in the mission to raise awareness about this important species.

“M’Changa, Shaka and Janu enjoyed special bonds as part of the group, often displaying brotherly relationships.

“We have no doubt that many people will be saddened to hear of M’Changa’s passing.”