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UDATE: Ruby's Abbreviated Life In The L.A. Zoo


Ruby at Los Angeles Zoo,

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spacer With Best Friend Gita Dead, Ruby Finally Retires
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, city council members, and Los Angeles Zoo commissioners are asked (over a series of Kinship Circle campaigns) to reclaim Ruby the elephant from the Knoxville, TN Zoo to reunite her with longtime companion Gita at the Los Angeles Zoo. But Ruby and Gita's reunion ends in 2006 when keepers find Gita, 48, motionless on the ground. She later dies from complications related to foot disorders and arthritis that plague captive elephants. After Gita's death, Kinship Circle members lobby for Ruby's relocation to the Performing Animal Welfare Society's (PAWS) Ark 2000 elephant sanctuary in San Andreas, CA — where she can savor freedom in 70 acres of natural habitat, alongside African elephants. The city and zoo eventually vote to retire Ruby to PAWS, rather than shuffle her to yet another zoo.

UPDATE FROM PRESS IS EDITED FOR LENGTH, 3/12/07 — Animal rights activists praise decision on Ruby. By Carla Hall, Times Staff Writer: Los Angeles Zoo is retiring its female African elephant, Ruby, to an animal sanctuary in Central California. The decision ends months of speculation over whether the pachyderm would go to another zoo or a sanctuary, and was praised by animal rights activists who lobbied for her retirement… "I am very pleased that the city and the zoo recognize that it’s best to send Ruby to a sanctuary, which unlike a zoo can provide the vast space and natural conditions that elephants need," Catherine Doyle, elephant campaign director for In Defense of Animals, said. Activists have made the zoo’s elephant habitat a rallying cry, long arguing that the giant land animals, which roam miles in the wild and form social bonds, do not have enough space at the L.A. Zoo… Ruby’s departure leaves the zoo with only one elephant, Billy, a 22-year-old Asian bull, on exhibit.

Ruby will go to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s Ark 2000 elephant sanctuary in San Andreas, southeast of Sacramento. Like a kind of Leisure World for elephants, PAWS offers some 75 acres of rolling hills to wander, plus a 3-acre lake and mud holes… Eight zoos accredited by the Assn. of Zoos and Aquariums, including San Francisco and Detroit, have placed a total of 11 elephants in sanctuaries, Doyle said.

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
200 N. Spring St., Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012
ph: 213-978-0600; fax: 213-978-0750

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

Citizens around the world care deeply about the plight of captive elephants. We applauded your decision to reclaim elephant Ruby from the Knoxville (Tennessee) Zoo for a heartwarming reunion with Gita, her longtime companion at the Los Angeles Zoo. We supported your 2005 request for an appraisal of the “housing and health needs” of Los Angeles Zoo elephants and your temporary hold on funding for an exhibit expansion.

But as you know, Ruby and Gita's reunion ended in June 2006 when keepers found Gita, 48, on the ground. Swift medical attention couldn't save the Asian elephant from the foot disorders and arthritis that plague captive elephants. Ruby may suffer a similar fate, unless she is moved to a sanctuary.

I understand the Los Angeles Zoo Commission advocates Ruby's relocation to PAWS sanctuary in Northern California. At an October 17, 2006 meeting, commissioners concluded PAWS would provide proper lifelong care for Ruby. I respectfully ask you to back their consensus by aiding Ruby's transfer to PAWS, where she can live alongside fellow African elephants on 70 acres of natural habitat.

At the present time, Ruby lives an abbreviated life. Rather than roam 20 or more miles everyday, she subsists in a cramped display, cut off from public view and other elephants. Clearly, she is deprived of the space, exercise and social enrichment to meet her physical and psychological needs. Female elephants, in particular, form complex social bonds. In the secluded confines of a zoo, an elephant's lifespan may decrease from 50-70 years to 40-45 years. An estimated 50% endure chronic arthritis and foot abscesses from insufficient exercise and endless hours upon hardened surfaces.

You can stop Ruby from becoming a sad statistic by ensuring she is not moved to another zoo. As you are aware, Ruby's trial run at the Knoxville Zoo in 2003 led to mental distress so severe, handlers were unable to integrate her with other elephants.

I appreciate your past concern for elephants in zoos and urge you to take immediate steps to remove Ruby, an African elephant, from the L.A. Zoo's new Asian oriented display. Please let Ruby savor relative freedom in the open space and organic terrain of PAWS sanctuary.

Thank you,

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