TIME is running out for Ruby, a 46-year-old African elephant at the Los Angeles Zoo who has spent almost her entire life before the public.
Despite popular support and an endorsement from the Board of Zoo Commissioners to move Ruby to a spacious sanctuary in Northern California, the L.A. Zoo management appears bent on sending her to the small confines of yet another zoo.
Ruby sparked the kind of widespread media attention that any Hollywood publicist would envy when, in 2003, the L.A. Zoo broke up her 16-year friendship with Asian elephant Gita by shipping Ruby off to a Tennessee zoo. After a year and a half, the zoo had failed to integrate Ruby with its elephants, so then-mayor James Hahn stepped in and ordered the L.A. Zoo to bring Ruby back. Sadly, Gita has since died, leaving Ruby entirely alone.
An African elephant, Ruby has no place in the zoo's planned Asian elephant exhibit and must leave. But it is wrong to send Ruby to yet another zoo. At 46, Ruby doesn't have many years left. Only one African elephant over age 50 exists in a U.S. zoo. The L.A. Zoo's argument that Ruby should be put on public view at another zoo is disingenuous, considering the zoo has kept Ruby off public display since her return to Los Angeles more than two years ago.
Other big-city zoos have sent elephants to sanctuaries. Last year, the Philadelphia Zoo announced it would transfer its 44-year-old Asian elephant to a sanctuary in Tennessee. Major zoos, like those in Detroit and San Francisco, have moved elephants to sanctuaries after closing their elephant exhibits. Considering Ruby has been on public display at a circus and in various zoos for more than 40 years, it's time to just let her be an elephant again. At a sanctuary, Ruby will be able to roam and explore more than 70 acres with other African elephants, swim in a pond, climb a hill and nap in tall green grass.
And it won't cost taxpayers a penny, since local elephant advocates, including myself, have pledged adequate funds to pay for Ruby's relocation and care. You could indeed say "the price is right."
A sanctuary is clearly the best and most compassionate choice for Ruby. If necessary, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, like Hahn before him, should intervene on Ruby's behalf and show once again that the city of Los Angeles has a heart big enough to do the right thing for one of earth's most magnificent animals. Ruby deserves to spend her remaining years in peace and comfort. Send Ruby to a sanctuary now.
Bob Barker is the host of CBS-TV's "The Price Is Right" and a life-long advocate for animals.