Animal behavior specialists are bewildered by an incident at the Zoological Garden of Rabat, in Morocco, in which a female elephant picked up a stone and threw it at the crowd, striking and killing a 7-year-old girl.
"The behavior … of any animal is very complex and wild animals are unpredictable," said Abderahim Salhi, the zoo's veterinarian. "We are all surprised. We don't yet understand."
The elephant threw the stone, which was about half the size of a brick, more than 33 feet, over a ditch and a wooden barrier; it struck the girl in the head. "In my opinion, it's unlikely the elephant was directly targeting the girl but exhibiting frustration," Phyllis Lee, the scientific director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, told the BBC.
The Rabat zoo defended its enclosure, which it said met the international standards, and called the incident "rare, unpredictable, and strange."
"We are very sad at what happened, but it would be wrong to blame the elephant. This was not premeditated," Salma Slimani, in charge of zoo administration, told The Associated Press.