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Ruby The Elephant, 50, Dies At Animal Sanctuary

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A one-time circus performer and 20-year resident of the Los Angeles Zoo, Ruby, an African elephant who moved to a Northern CA sanctuary in 2007 amid controversy over her habitat at the Los Angeles Zoo, died on Tuesday at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) elephant sanctuary in San Andreas. She was 50.

Facility director Pat Derby, a veterinarian and the elephant staff were all with Ruby when she died. The necropsy will be performed at the University of California, Davis, said Derby, reports the Associated Press.

In 2003 Ruby was sent to the Knoxville Zoo to act as an "auntie" in a breeding program. Animal rights activists said taking her away from her companion in Los Angeles, Gita, endangered her health. In 2004, former Mayor James Hahn ordered Ruby be returned to Los Angeles, reports the AP. When 48-year-old Gita died in 2006, Ruby lived alone, off-exhibit, until she was sent to the sanctuary -- with the help of Bob Barker who donated $300,000 to help pay for her expenses -- where she reportedly blended in well with three other elephants.

A private tree planting memorial will be held in Ruby's honor in the next few weeks, said Derby, who wants to see a stop to "the senseless capture and export of wild elephants." According to the AP, there are about 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild.