Elephant whacks and kills trainer at Japan zoo

Indian elephants can grow to 6.4 metres in length and 3.5 metres in height, according to the World Wildlife Fund

An elephant whacked a trainer with its trunk and killed him at a Japanese zoo on Sunday, police said.

Wichai Madee from Thailand was washing an Indian elephant with a colleague at Adventure World in the western prefecture of Wakayama when the giant animal swung its trunk and hit him.

"The animal might have somehow become angry. It swung its trunk and the trunk hit the person who was working in front of the elephant," a police spokesman told AFP.

"The person apparently was pushed hard and hit either the cage or the ground and hit his head."

Other zoo staff called the police saying "an employee was attacked by an elephant", according to private broadcaster TBS.

The 37-year-old trainer was taken to hospital but later died, police said.

The incident happened before the zoo opened its doors to the public.