In May, animal rights groups lost their bid to prevent the Los Angeles Zoo from moving a 42-year-old female African elephant to the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.
Los Angeles resident Catherine Doyle had sued to get a temporary restraining order blocking the move, but the zoo moved the elephant two days before the scheduled hearing on the restraining order.
Animal rights groups that had opposed the move, including The Humane Society of The United States (HSUS), In Defense of Animals, Last Chance For Animals and Venice Animal Allies Foundation, blasted the move. In a joint press release, the groups complained,
In its attempt to keep [elephants] Ruby and Gita together, Doyle’s lawsuit accuses the Los Angeles Zoo of violating public policy and trust, as well as the California Administrative Procedure Act. It does not cite any violation of the Endangered Species Act. This outrageous ploy on the part of the zoo and the L.A. City attorney was a blatant delaying tactic designed to leave Ruby’s fate in legal limbo and enabled the zoo to carry out their plan of transferring Ruby to the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, regardless of the elephants’ mutual welfare.
“I believe the L.A. Zoo, with Mayor Hahn’s endorsement, has shown its true colors with this covert operation of moving Ruby under the cover of darkness over a holiday weekend,” declares Gretchen Wyler, VP HSUS Hollywood Office. “The zoo has resorted to reprehensible legal maneuvering to achieve its intractable goal of separating these elephants, and like thieves in the night, has spirited away city property from the residents of Los Angeles.”
“Shame on the zoo for sneaking Ruby away in chains in the middle of the night, taking her away from her home and her best friend, while our request for a temporary restraining order was to be ruled on today,” states Yael Trock, the attorney for the plaintiff Catherine Doyle. “We are not giving up on this and intend to take further legal action.”
The Los Angeles Zoo moved the elephant because the Knoxville Zoo has an interest in developing an African elephant breeding program whereas the L.A. Zoo is in the process of focusing on Asian elephants in a process that could eventually lead to a breeding program as well.
Animal Protection Groups Blast L.A. Zoo for Spiriting Away Elephant Under Cover of Darkness. In Defense of Animals, Press Release, May 27, 2003.
Despite protests, L.A. Zoo Sends Elephants to Tennessee. Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2003.