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ELEPHANT DEATH DRAWS PROTEST.

Byline: ALEX DOBUZINSKIS Staff Writer

More than 30 animal rights activists chanted anti-zoo slogans and waved tombstone-shaped placards Sunday outside the Los Angeles Zoo to protest the death of a 48-year-old Asian elephant.

Hoping to discourage visitors from entering the park, some protesters also wore black to mourn Gita, who died Saturday in her enclosure.

Necropsy results are pending, but the protesters claim Gita died because she could not roam free like her counterparts in the wild.

``Gita was in her middle-age at 48, not in her old age as the zoo wants you to believe,'' said Bill Dyer, regional director of the group In Defense of Animals. ``Elephants can live into their 70s or more in a natural habitat. It is the unnatural conditions of zoos that shortens their lives.''

On Saturday at about 5 a.m., zoo workers found Gita sitting on her haunches, which can endanger an elephant's life by cutting off circulation and releasing fatal toxins into the 8,000-pound animal's bloodstream. Veterinarians tried to raise the animal onto her feet, but the Asian elephant died at 9:40 a.m.

``She was beloved by many people, not just the staff but visitors, and it's a tremendous loss,'' said Jason Jacobs, a spokesman for the zoo. ``Animals are born in the Los Angeles Zoo, and as a natural part of the cycle animals also die at the Los Angeles Zoo.''

Two years ago, a female African elephant named Tara died of heart failure at 40. Protesters said the zoo has a history of elephants dying before their time. The zoo did not immediately respond to that claim.

Some of the protesters carried placards shaped like tombstones, with the names of Los Angeles Zoo elephants that have died. They formed a line facing visitors, who were filing their way to the ticket booths.

Actor Chris DeRose, one of the protesters, said one family turned back early in the demonstration.

City News Service contributed to this report.

alex.dobuzinskis(at)dailynews.com

(818) 546-3304
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 12, 2006
Words:336
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