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S.F. Zoo gives up its last elephant

The San Francisco Zoo is giving up its last elephant because its compound for the animals is too small to satisfy newly enacted county requirements.
Lulu the elephant, shown in this picture provided by the San Francisco Zoo, is due for relocation to an animal sanctuary after county officials voted to require more space for elephants.George Nikitin / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Yielding to pressure from animal-rights groups, the San Francisco Zoo is giving up its last elephant, marking the first time in the facility’s 75-year history that it will be without at least one pachyderm.

The zoo’s only remaining elephant is being moved to a sanctuary in the Sierra foothills after elected officials voted to require a larger compound for elephants at the seaside attraction.

The 38-year-old elephant named Lulu is the fourth animal to be relocated or to have died in the zoo’s half-acre (2,000-square-meter) elephant compound this year.

The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors said last week that elephants can only return when the zoo builds a larger elephant enclosure of at least 15 acres (6 hectares).

Action applauded
Animal-rights activists applauded the board’s action.

“While no urban environment can meet the vast space requirements of elephants, the new San Francisco standards are an important first step in forcing the zoo to recognize and address the complex needs of elephants,” said veterinarian Elliot Katz, president of the animal-rights group In Defense of Animals.

The zoo’s director, Manuel Mollinedo, expects elephants to return at some point. He planned to seek bonds to help build new pens and was optimistic private donors might contribute to the project.

Closure sought for years
Animal-rights activists have sought closure of the elephant exhibit for years. The dispute intensified in April, when a 44-year-old African elephant died at the zoo. Earlier, zoo officials euthanized an 37-year-old Asian elephant because of a degenerative joint disease and other ailments.

In the wild, elephants may live 50 to 70 years.

Last month, a 38-year-old Asian elephant was moved to a 2,300-acre (930-hectare) sanctuary in San Andreas, where zoo officials will soon relocate Lulu, an African elephant who is beset with health problems.