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Suit Seeks to Keep Elephant at L.A. Zoo

Times Staff Writer

A woman has filed suit to stop the Los Angeles Zoo from sending its female African elephant, Ruby, to the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, a move she said would break a longtime bond between the animal and a female Asian elephant, Gita.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Catherine Doyle, a 46-year-old Los Angeles woman who supports animal-welfare issues. It comes after months of vocal opposition from animal rights activists and others to the planned move.

Los Angeles Zoo officials, pointing out that African and Asian elephants are different species, contend that the move will place Ruby with other African elephants and allow her to be a model of mothering to breeding females.

Opponents of the move argue that it is cruel to separate the two elephants who have lived at the zoo together for 16 years.

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“We believe there is a special relationship between the two, and we think they should stay together the rest of their lives,” said Yael Trock, a personal injury attorney in Encino, who filed the suit on behalf of Doyle.

The suit seeks no monetary damages, only to stop the move. It is backed by several prominent animal protection groups.

“It’s in our interest to enjoy them as much as possible and protect them as much as possible,” Trock said. “We think they should be kept in the city because we are the taxpayers and residents of the city and we should be the ones enjoying seeing them.”

Trock said she has declarations from two elephant experts saying the move would be detrimental to the animals.

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The attorney would not reveal much about her client. But Gretchen Wyler, the vice president of the Hollywood office of the Humane Society of the U.S., said of Doyle, “She’s been interested in animal protection issues all her life.”

Zoo officials have not been served yet with the suit.

“Our position is what it has been -- to move Ruby when we can schedule it,” said Lora LaMarca, the zoo’s marketing director.

Zoo officials have said if Ruby does not fare well in Knoxville, they will bring her back.

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