Farewell Gita

The sad word’s out that Gita, the L.A. Zoo’s 48-year-old elephant, died this morning. During those cherished opportunities when I worked there that I was able to get this close…

…to the 9,000-pound pachyderm she never failed to be the gentlest and most beautifully dispositioned of giants, which stands in testament to the ceaseless love, care and respect she received throughout her life by zoo personnel.

Her loss is not only a huge physical one for the zoo, but also an historic one as well. Gita came into the care of the zoo back in 1959 before its present location existed. In fact, when the new zoo opened in the mid-1960s, Gita was walked up Crystal Springs Drive through Griffith Park from the old zoo to her new home.

Anti-zoo activists will no doubt have a field day with her demise and use it to trumpet the need to halt construction of the new elephant exhibit and move the remaining elephants, Ruby and Billy, to so-called “sanctuaries.” Ironically they’ll use Gita self-servingly to shamelessly smear the zoo as selfish and lacking concern for animal welfare. In the meantime, I know that no one at the zoo, be they volunteer or staff or patron will be taking this heartbreak very well.

Gita was a remarkable animal, beloved by all who had the honor and privilege to know her.