Dubbo bound … Taronga Zoo’s Pathi Harn.NSW’S two main zoos will restrict contact with elephants following the near-fatal crushing of a Taronga keeper last year, preventing the city zoo from fulfilling one of the conditions of importing endangered Asian elephants from Thailand – to walk them.

As Taronga confirmed it will send all its male Asian elephants to Dubbo soon, splitting the family and social group of eight, senior management expressed ”disappointment” that at least one staff member publicly criticised the move to ”protected contact” with the pachyderms by mid-next year.

”I’m glad I’m not an elephant as their world has now become as small as their enclosures,” Gajah69 posted on the online forum, ZooChat. ”If as much effort had gone into improving the standard of management as there has to reduce it to [protected contact] then it would have proven to be a success.”

Taronga’s acting general manager of life sciences, Rebecca Spindler, would not discuss any internal investigation into the forum post, but said: ”It’s a bit disappointing that staff have decided to go out that route.”

Dr Spindler said restricted contact, now becoming standard practice in the US where most zoos call it ”protected contact”, meant keepers stayed out of the elephant enclosures unless there was a specific need.

In those cases, physical space between animal and human was maintained, or the elephants were restrained either by drugs or tethering to a bollard.

Pathi Harn, a young male, pinned senior keeper Lucy Melo to a pole during a training session last October and nearly killed her. She returned to work this week and an internal investigation cleared the zoo of any wrong-doing, blaming high levels of testosterone in the elephant.

Some experts say moving part of the group to Dubbo, is cruel. ”To arbitrarily chop a group in two and send some of them off to another place is a very disturbing and frankly cruel thing to do,” said a former zoo director, David Hancocks.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.