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For Immediate Release: 06/13/06

Legislator says L.A. Zoo elephant’s death proves necessity of state legislation

Los Angeles, CA — The recent death of Gita, an endangered Asian elephant, at the L.A. Zoo has again focused the national spotlight on California and the ethical dilemma of keeping captive elephants. California seized the spotlight earlier this year when the Sacramento-based Animal Protection Institute (API) took the debate a step further by introducing legislation to protect captive elephants.

The Elephant Protection Act (AB 3027) was authored by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and was the first of its kind to be debated in the nation. The bill would have set minimum space requirements for elephants housed at stationary facilities or kept or maintained on traveling display. Despite widespread support for AB 3027, it recently died in committee.

“Gita’s tragic death has left us all saddened and should serve as a bellwether for all to focus attention on the issue of animal welfare,” says Assemblymember Levine. “In light of Gita’s untimely passing we must do everything in our power to ensure the best possible care for the Zoo’s remaining elephants — Ruby and Billy — along with all other elephants in captivity in California.”

John Lewis, director of the L.A. Zoo, claims that Gita was an old elephant who had surpassed the average 42-year lifespan of an elephant. These claims are made despite scientific research to the contrary, which notes the natural lifespan of elephants to be 65–70 years of age. Though zoos and circuses frequently cite conservation as a justification to keep elephants, elephants in captivity, protected from poaching and given food and regular veterinary care, die earlier than their wild counterparts. More than half of the elephants who died at accredited zoos nationwide since 2000 failed to reach their 40th birthday.

Gita, like many other captive elephants, suffered from lack of space and poor substrates. These have been proven to lead to a variety of ailments including arthritis, foot infections, obesity, and other painful ailments all of which lead to premature death in captive ailments.

“We hope Gita’s death sends a message that we need to act now to spare other elephants from the unnecessary pain she endured,” says Nicole Paquette, Esq., Director of Legal and Government Affairs for API. “We will continue to push for legislation that protects captive elephants in California and across the nation. With all that they have given us, the elephants deserve no less.”

The Animal Protection Institute (API) is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. API is a nationally recognized leader on elephant issues and the sponsor of AB 3027 in California, a similar bill, LB 1000, in Nebraska, and S 2457 in Massachusetts, which would ban wild and exotic animals from circuses and traveling shows. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-447-3085 x205
Alex Traverso, Office of Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, 916-319-2647

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