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DEATH OF RECALCITRANT ELEPHANT ATTRIBUTED TO HEART FAILURE

Hannibal, a rowdy elephant being prepared for shipment to a Mexican zoo, died of heart failure when he sat down and put pressure on his vital organs, Los Angeles Zoo officials said Saturday.

The endangered African bull elephant was under sedation and sat down in a special cage March 20 to resist a move from the Los Angeles Zoo. The sitting position put pressure on Hannibal's heart, which eventually stopped."This is a significant loss of a friend," said Los Angeles Zoo Director Mark Goldstein. "There is no evidence that malpractice or misjudgment was used."

Goldstein said zoo officials debated several options when Hannibal sat down, including moving him with heavy equipment. A decision was made to leave the 10,000-pound elephant alone in the hopes that he would stand on his own.

Hannibal was the third elephant to die in captivity at the zoo in the past 10 years. But Goldstein said the preliminary report on Hannibal's death showed that zoo employees acted correctly.

"There was no point in the procedure where we could look back and say, `We should have done this instead,' " Goldstein said at a news conference to release the report.

There was no evidence that Hannibal had any other health problems prior to his death, Goldstein said.

A necropsy, or post-mortem investigation on animals, revealed that a non-lethal dose of tranquilizers was found in the 16- to 18-year-old elephant's body, Goldstein said. The elephant also was given a stimulant to counter the effects of the tranquilizer after he sat down.

About 125 animal-rights activists gathered outside the zoo to protest Hannibal's death. They criticized the zoo for an ill-conceived attempt to unload an aggressive elephant on a Mexican zoo rather than creating a suitable enclosure for it.