RABAT • A seven-year-old girl was killed in a freak accident at a zoo in Morocco when an elephant hurled a rock at her head.
She had been posing with her family for a photograph beside the animal's enclosure in the country's capital, Rabat, on Tuesday.
Witnesses said the elephant threw a large stone into the air after picking it up with its trunk, striking the girl on the back of her head.
She was knocked unconscious and died in a nearby hospital from her injuries, the Daily Mail reported yesterday.
Mobile phone footage taken by a bystander showed the victim's stunned family gathered around her as zoo personnel tended to her on the ground.
Witnesses claimed an ambulance took too long to arrive, and hit out at the zoo for not having its own medical station.
"It is with great sadness that the Rabat Zoo announces the accidental death of a little girl, victim of a stone's throw by an elephant," said the zoo on its Twitter page.
A spokesman for the zoo was quoted as saying that there had been no security breaches, and the girl had not crossed into a protective area outside the enclosure.
"Accidents of this type are rare, unforeseeable and unusual," the spokesman added.
He highlighted two recent incidents in the United States to illustrate the difficulty in preventing such animal-related accidents: the death of a two-year-old boy at Walt Disney World in Florida in an alligator attack, and the shooting of a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo in May after a three-year-old child fell into its enclosure, reported the BBC.
According to local reports, the girl's father had lifted her up on his shoulders for the photograph.
The Rabat-Temara zoo, which opened in 2012, houses 130 species of animals in simulated mountain, desert and rainforest habitats.