Zoo Worker Dies After Being Hit by Elephant's Trunk: 'We Are Deeply Shocked'

Joaquin Gutiérrez Arnáiz, 44, died after he was struck by a female elephant's trunk at the Cabárceno Natural Park in Spain

Parque de Cabarceno
Cabárceno Natural Park. Photo: Tony Rotondas

A zoo worker in Spain has died after he was struck by an elephant's trunk.

The incident occurred around 8:30 a.m., on Tuesday when staffers were cleaning the pachyderm stables as part of their daily duties, according to a news release from the Cabárceno Natural Park.

Joaquin Gutiérrez Arnáiz, 44, was standing in a corridor where animals exit to an outdoor area when he was hit by a female elephant's trunk, knocking him over onto the bars of an enclosure.

Zoo officials said the elephant was with her calf in the compound at the time of the incident.

Two of Gutiérrez Arnáiz's colleagues called for help and the zoo worker was transported to Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital, where he later died.

Gutiérrez Arnáiz had been working at the wildlife park for 19 years, during which he "had acquired extensive experience in the management and care of elephants," according to zoo officials.

"We are deeply shocked," Francisco Javier López Marcano, the Minister of Industry, Tourism, Innovation, Transport and Commerce, said in a statement translated from Spanish to English. "Cabárceno loses a person very dear to his colleagues and a worker dedicated to his work as a caregiver for almost two decades."

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López Marcano added that the death was "an irreparable loss of a person so young and loved by all."

The fatal incident, which is now being investigated by members of the Civil Guard and judicial police, was the first in the Cabárceno Nature Park's 30-year history, zoo officials said.

The park, which features an elephant habitat spanning 61 acres, currently houses 20 elephants.

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