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Group wants elephant pen closed

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — An animal protection group said Friday the Birmingham Zoo should shut down the pen where an elderly Asian elephant named Mona lived alone before being euthanized due to deteriorating health.

Believed to be the oldest elephant in captivity at an accredited U.S. zoo, Mona was put to sleep by a lethal injection on Thursday.

A group that previously criticized the animal's treatment said her death was the perfect time to permanently close the pen where she lived.

"We feel like enough suffering has gone on there. It's just not enough space for that large an animal," said Victoria Nichols of Alabama Wildlife Advocates.

Zoo spokeswoman Katrina Cade said no decision had been made on whether to get a new elephant or to permanently close Mona's home.

"The exhibit is closed (right now) because we don't have any more elephants," she said.

The 7,900-pound elephant lived in an indoor/outdoor enclosure that was roughly the size of two basketball courts. She had been alone since another elephant died two years ago.

Mona was believed to be pushing 60 years old, but her exact age was uncertain.

Standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums normally require that zoos have at least two elephants to keep each other company, but the accreditation group granted an exception for Birmingham's zoo because of Mona's advanced age.

Earlier this year, a group called In Defense of Animals placed the Birmingham Zoo atop its list of the 10 worst U.S. zoos for elephants because of Mona's living conditions. The organization called for Mona to be sent to an elephant sanctuary where she would have company and room to roam.

Zoo officials said the elephant seemed happy and healthy, but they feared moving such an elderly animal could endanger its life.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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