first_img160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I tried singing in a gentle voice, but the herbivore didn’t seem interested in anything I had to say. Now I know that I ought to have tried tap dancing, since the “Pacinian corpuscles” in her feet are attuned to seismic communications. But this was more than 10 years ago, and I didn’t know then that for Ruby, living intimately with humans for 40 years must have been akin to going deaf. Ruby will soon be leaving her home at the L.A. Zoo, bound for Calaveras County and 2,300 acres at the Performance Animal Welfare Society Sanctuary north of Sacramento. There she will enjoy the subwoofer rumblings of her fellow Proboscidea Elephanstidae Loxodonta: Minnie, Rebecca, Annie, Winky and Wanda – all Asian elephants – and “71,” Mara and Lulu, fellow African elephants. Ruby will be much happier there, once she learns to sing like an elephant again. And if she should be so lucky as to experience a shift on one of the faults beneath her feet, it will likely feel as if the earth is singing to her. If all goes right, then Ruby will soon join a herd of strangers in a strange land who share 100 acres of grass, acacia trees, lakes and a Jacuzzi fit for an elephant with arthritis. The cost will be about $1 million, but it seems the least we can do, having murdered her family, chained and tortured her in ways we are still largely unaware of. Our only excuse is we didn’t know any better. We still don’t, but we’re learning. I encountered Ruby almost a decade ago surrounded by a few irritable human youngsters who had no interest in an elephant who was not doing tricks. Ah, if only I had known then that Ruby had come to the zoo from a circus. She probably loved doing tricks. It’s not like elephants do math in their heads when they get bored, but evidently sometimes a ball can serve as a companion for humans and elephants. I don’t sing very well but I tried an old Kenny Rogers song. My hope was to catch Ruby’s attention, but after a few verses I gave up. Elephants, I decided, are just big cows and dumb grass-eaters. I could not have been more wrong. They live constantly surrounded by family: at 12 they become adolescents, at 20 they are adults, at 40 middle age and at 70 their last set of teeth wears out. During their yearly migration they often pause where a herd member died. They show discrimination in choosing branches to swat flies or to scratch an itch and in finding rocks to play elephantine games of catch. Last week at the St. Louis zoo, Clara, a 54-year-old matriarch, was euthanized because she was no longer responding to her arthritis pain medications. Almost 50 years of standing on concrete so wore her footpads down that, for awhile, Clara had to wear sandals. It seemed a bitter irony for a dame once called “Clara the Dancer.” Ruby will have a nobler retirement. Ruby is not a human wearing an elephant suit. But respecting her “inner beast” certainly does not prevent me from asking that, “Please, Ruby, don’t take your love to town.” Kimit Muston is a freelance writer and former San Fernando Valley resident living in Indiana. For six years he wrote a weekly column for the Daily News.last_img

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