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Baby Elephant Cries For 5 Hours After Mother Tries to Stomp Him to Death: Chinese Zoo Officials Say It Wasn't an Accident (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

By Julia Lynn Rubin | Sep 11, 2013 03:58 PM EDT

Baby Elephant Crying
A baby elephant in a Chinese zoo shed tears for five hours after his mother tried to trample him to death. (Photo : Video Still, Shangdon TV)

A baby elephant named Zhuangzhuang was nearly trampled to death by his mother just minutes after being born in a zoo in China, Shangdon TV reports, the calf photographed crying for five hours after the traumatic incident, which vets think was not an accident.

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On Aug. 30, Zhuangzhuang, a baby Asian elephant, came into the world with the help of zoo breeders at the Shendiaoshan Wild Animal Natural Reserve Area, in Rongcheng, Shandong province, the Daily Mail reports. Witnesses told Shangdon TV that the calf was removed from his mother after what was initially thought to be an accident. He was then treated for his injuries, which included bruising, and was once again taken back to his mother. But Zhuangzhuang's mother proceeded to try and stomp her baby to death again. In order to ensure the baby's protection, he was been placed in an enclosed area where his mother cannot reach him.

On Aug. 31, Zhuangzhuang was filmed crying out of pain and sorrow from the traumatic experience, tears running down his face between the hours of 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. Zoo officials, however, are convinced that with some love and care, he will soon forget the pain and be able to move on and make new elephant and human friends. Baby Zhuangzhuang had been placed into the care of a zookeeper and is already doing better.

According to Shangdon TV, the mother seems to be suffering from an elephant version of postpartum depression, which when left untreated, can lead to infanticide among humans.

"He couldn't bear to be parted from his mother and it was his mother who was trying to kill him," a zoo spokesperson told Shangdon TV. "They have made a good bond. We don't know why the mother turned on her calf but we couldn't take a chance."

Elephants are highly emotional animals that have been known to cry in the wild due to experiences of stress, trauma and grief. Crying, it turns out, is not an expression of emotion unique to humans, though scientists are still unsure as to what prompts elephants to shed tears and what they may be experiencing in the moments of their sadness.

Click here to see photos of Zhuangzhuang, the baby elephant calf who cried for five hours straight after his mother tried to trample him to death.

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