Barker pledges $300K for elephant sanctuary


Bob Barker will pledge $300,000 toward housing an elephant from the Los Angeles Zoo in an animal sanctuary.

The pledge would match donations in support of sending Ruby, a 45-year-old African elephant, to a sanctuary in San Andreas in Northern California, publicist Henri Bollinger said Tuesday.

Ruby is housed at the zoo, but animal rights advocates have raised concerns about the zoo's treatment of elephants, including a 48-year-old Asian pachyderm named Gita who died in June. Another elephant, Tara, died in 2004.

"Bob has been very concerned about the condition of elephants living in zoos, and particularly at the L.A. Zoo," Bollinger said. "He wants to do whatever he can to change that situation and get elephants placed in sanctuaries."

Zoo officials have maintained that they never mistreated the elephants. Zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs said officials weren't aware of any offer from Barker and that Ruby's "ultimate destination is not a financial decision."

Barker, 83, a noted animal rights activist and the host of CBS' "The Price Is Right," pleaded with the City Council in February to close the zoo's elephant exhibit, claiming the animals were miserable and that some of them were ill.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved a $39 million, 3.5-acre exhibit to house Ruby and a 21-year-old Asian male elephant named Billy.

A zoo investigation found that Gita's keepers didn't begin emergency procedures for more than eight hours after the elephant was first observed sitting with her back legs tucked under her, a general sign of distress for the creatures.

"We are very grateful that Mr. Barker, a great champion for animals, has stepped forward to help Ruby," Elliot Katz, president of the group In Defense of Animals, said in a statement. "It's crucial that Ruby be sent to a sanctuary now."