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Fight Over Elephant Continues

L.A. Zoo's Ruby has arrived at her new home in Tennessee, but Southland activists vow to try to bring her back.

May 28, 2003|Carla Hall | Times Staff Writer

As Ruby, a 42-year-old African elephant, was ending her cross-country journey by truck from the Los Angeles Zoo to new quarters at Tennessee's Knoxville Zoo on Tuesday, animal rights activists here vowed to fight to bring her back.

At a news conference outside City Hall, attorney Yael Trock said she would request that a court "bring Ruby back after she has had time to rest." Trock said she would also ask the court to sanction the Los Angeles Zoo for moving Ruby before a judge could rule on an injunction.

The zoo's action was not illegal, said Eric Moses, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, which represents the Los Angeles Zoo. But, he said, "We did warn them that there would be a public relations outcry if they acted before the court did."

Trock had filed suit on behalf of local resident Catherine Doyle, claiming that the move is detrimental to city taxpayers because it would harm Ruby and a 45-year-old Asian elephant, Gita, who have lived together for 16 years. Affidavits from animal experts, collected by Trock, contend that breaking that bond between female elephants -- highly social in the wild -- would be traumatic.

The zoo's attorney had the case moved from Superior Court to federal court -- because federal laws govern endangered species, according to Moses -- but Trock argued it should go back. Federal Judge Nora Manella remanded it to the state court on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ruby arrived in Knoxville on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by two Los Angeles zookeepers who will stay with her a few days.

"She's happily in her stall inside the barn; she's eating her dinner," said Jeff Briscoe, who had cared for the elephant here.

Gita, he said, was getting along well with the Los Angeles Zoo's other female, Tara, a 43-year-old African elephant.

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