Ruby, the 46-year-old African elephant who has been a mainstay at the LA Zoo for years, is retiring. In an announcement today, LA Zoo officials and Mayor Villaraigosa said that while the decision was a difficult one, it is the right one for Ruby.
She will be transferred to PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society), a non-profit 2,300 acre sanctuary for captive wildlife located in San Andreas. Though zoo visitors are saddened to see Ruby go, many wildlife activists have been pressing the zoo to make a decision about Ruby's future amid concerns that the zoo can't provide enough space or enrichment activities for the beloved pachyderm.
The growing concern about space in the current elephant habitat has prompted the LA Zoo to begin building the new Pachyderm Forest which is scheduled to open in late 2009. Villaraigosa supported this expansion in his remarks this morning: "I continue to remain committed to the state-of-the-art new elephant habitat currently under development at the Zoo. This is a great city, we deserve a world class zoo and this exhibit will be a step in that direction."
Ruby's departure means that Billy, a male Asian elephant, will be the only elephant at the Zoo who will remain on display until the new habitat is ready. It is likely that activists will soon begin to rally support for Billy's transfer to PAWS so that he can live out his life with the enrichment and acreage he needs.