Elephant Assistance
Al Grillo  /  AP
Alaska's only elephant, 7,500-pound Maggie, stands in her enclosure at the Alaska Zoo. Zoo officials say Maggie is up after an incident of laying down and not being able to raise herself.
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updated 5/17/2007 8:26:19 PM ET 2007-05-18T00:26:19

Alaska's only elephant had to be hoisted to her feet for the second time in a week, renewing concerns about the health of the 7,500-pound animal.

Maggie was down for six or seven hours before she was lifted upright Wednesday in her enclosure at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. On Sunday the 25-year-old African elephant was down on her concrete floor for as long as 19 hours before she was set back on her feet.

The incidents have renewed calls by animal advocates to relocate Maggie to a warmer locale where she can exercise in a more natural environment and be around other elephants. Critics said Maggie's lack of exercise might be causing degenerative muscle problems or arthritis.

Zoo officials have said Maggie might have had colic or a stomach ache, but haven't ruled out any possibilities. They are consulting with local and outside veterinarians and have launched another round of blood work hoping to pinpoint a cause.

"Our first concern is her health and getting her better," said zoo spokeswoman Eileen Floyd.

Maggie appeared fine after both incidents, and was alert and eating normally, Floyd said.

The zoo had the elephant on a round-the-clock watch after her first rescue Sunday. On Tuesday, she was doing so well, walking around in her outside pen in front of visitors, that she was checked on once an hour that night, Floyd said.

The elephant was standing when a handler checked on her at 4 a.m. Wednesday, but lying on her right side an hour later. Firefighters and a towing company with heavy equipment were called in and they used the towing equipment and straps to put Maggie back on her feet shortly after 11 a.m., according to Floyd.

After Wednesday's rescue, Maggie was placed back on full-time watch and her section of the zoo was closed to the public. The zoo planned to periodically put Maggie in a sling to give her a chance to rest while she recovers.

"There's great concern for her," Floyd said.

Advocates including the San Rafael, Calif.-based In Defense of Animals want to see Maggie transferred to a sanctuary, where she would be with other elephants in a large, natural setting. In the meantime, the organization is among those calling for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the Alaska Zoo and assess Maggie's condition.

Maggie arrived at the zoo in 1983 as a baby. She has been alone since December 1997, when the zoo's other elephant died at age 33.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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