The three elephants at Los Angeles Zoo -- Gita, Ruby and Billy -- need three times more space than their current quarters but it comes with a price tag of $50 million.
LOS ANGELES — The three elephants at Los Angeles Zoo -- Gita, Ruby and Billy -- need three times more space than their current quarters but it comes with a price tag of $50 million, according to a report on the future of pachyderms at the zoo.
The independent report was commissioned by Los Angeles' new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, after years of debate about the keeping of elephants in captivity at the city-owned zoo.
Some U.S. zoos have closed their elephant exhibits in the past few years in the light of concern over odd behavior and arthritis among the animals, who have strong social instincts and roam some 20 miles a day in the wild.
One Los Angeles elephant, Tara, died of heart failure last year at age 39. The average lifespan of an elephant is about 70 years.
LA Zoo officials also enraged animal welfare activists by transferring African elephant Ruby to another zoo two years ago, ending her 16-year bond with Los Angeles companion Gita. Ruby was eventually brought back to Los Angeles but all is not well -- Gita now has chronic foot problems.
Los Angeles Zoo had already planned to double its half acre exhibit for Ruby, Gita and male elephant Billy, at the cost of $25 million.
The report, issued Tuesday, said the three elephants needed about three acres which could boost the cost to nearly $50 million. But it said they were very well looked after and that there would be considerable costs to the city for moving the animals to a sanctuary and paying for their upkeep there.
Officials at Los Angeles Zoo said they were reviewing the report before commenting further.
City officials will decide in coming weeks whether to accept the recommendations but activists, who have stepped up protests and rallies at the zoo, said they hoped the council would vote to send the elephants to a sanctuary.
"Three acres is still inadequate for meeting the needs of elephants and $50 million to build an inadequate exhibit defies logic," said Catherine Doyle of the Los Angeles Alliance for Elephants.
"I am standing at the zoo now and watching Billy bobbing his head up and down. It is pathetic," Doyle said.