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January 16, 2007

Zoo Commission Endorses Idea of Sending Elephant to Sanctuary

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Zoo Commission on Tuesday endorsed the idea of sending Ruby the African elephant to a wildlife sanctuary, but stopped short of acting on the plan.

Ruby is kept separate from the zoo's other elephant, named Billy, and suffers from both a lack of companionship and the harsh impact of the hard concrete floor in her enclosure, according to animal rights activists.

Efforts to transfer Ruby to the 150-acre PAWS wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas would give the 45-year-old pachyderm about 500 times the space of her current enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo, according to Catherine Doyle, a representative with In Defense of Animals.

"I think it was very important that the zoo commissioners came out in such strong support," Doyle said. "It send a clear message of what direction the zoo should take, and that's to send Ruby to a sanctuary."

The panel, which oversees zoo operations, was prepared to introduce a motion asking that Ruby be sent to a sanctuary. They were stopped by a city lawyer, who warned that the item was only up for discussion, not a vote.

Commissioner Kimberly Marteau was absent from the meeting.

"At this time, the zoo and the commission are considering several options, and when a decision is made, we will present it to the community," zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs said, declining to comment further.

Efforts to reach members of the Zoo Commission were unsuccessful.

So far, animal activists have raised $260,000 to transfer Ruby to a sanctuary, which will be matched up to $300,000 from game show host Bob Barker. The funds would cover the costs of transferring Ruby to the sanctuary and pay for her care once she arrives.

Zoo Commission members visited the PAWS sanctuary late last year as they explore options for Ruby, who remains out of view of zoo visitors.

Efforts to relocate Ruby were launched shortly after her companion, Gita, died in June.

An investigation determined that zoo officials were slow to react after Gita was reported to be in a downed position. A necropsy found that the 48- year-old Asian elephant died of heart failure associated with blood clots that began three to five days before her death.

Gita's death spurred heightened opposition by animal rights activists to the zoo's plans for a new 3.7-acre pachyderm enclosure.





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