updated 6/11/2006 6:39:13 AM ET 2006-06-11T10:39:13

An Asian elephant has died at the Los Angeles Zoo, where critics have charged the animals are kept in unhealthy conditions.

Gita, 48, was found sitting down when keepers went to her yard Saturday morning. A “medical response” failed, zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs said in a statement.

A necropsy was planned to determine the cause of death.

Gita, who came to Southern California in 1959, was one of three elephants at the zoo. She and another female, Ruby, have been living out of the public view in adjoining yards.

Gita had arthritis and a history of foot problems, and underwent surgery last year to remove portions of a toe from her left front foot.

The living conditions of the zoo’s elephants were closely examined after the death of Tara, a 39-year-old African elephant who died of heart failure in 2004.

Critics have long said the zoo’s elephant enclosures are too small for animals that can roam up to 10 miles in the wild and that the hardpacked soil and concrete are brutal on their feet. Zoo officials dispute the charges.

A city report released last year said the elephants are well-tended but need far more space.

In April, the City Council approved construction of a $39 million elephant exhibit for the zoo. The 3.5-acre exhibit would have a variety of natural walking surfaces and would include trees and bathing waterholes.

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