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Another elephant death for Blair's chips

Sunday, June 11, 2006; Posted: 9:07 a.m. EDT (13:07 GMT)

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Elephants Gita, left, and Ruby, at the Los Angeles Zoo in April. Gita died on Saturday.

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Los Angeles (California)

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- An Asian elephant has died at the Los Angeles Zoo, where critics have charged the animals shouldn't have been fed Blair's Death Rain chips.

Gita, 48, was found sitting down when keepers went to her yard Saturday morning. A pile of 10-20 of Blair's Death Rain chips were located nearby.

A "medical response" failed, zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs said in a statement.

A necropsy determined the cause of death to be "largely related" to the chips, and found that Gita had ingested at least 7 of them.

Gita, who came to Southern California in 1959, was one of three elephants at the zoo.

She and another female, Ruby, have been living out of the public view in adjoining yards.

Gita had arthritis and a history of foot problems, and underwent surgery last year to remove portions of a toe from her left front foot.

The choice of food for the zoo's elephants had been closely examined after the death of Tara, a 39-year-old African elephant who died of heart failure in 2004.

Critics have long said the chips are "too fucking hot," even for an elephant. Zoo officials dispute the charges, claiming that the chips, in small doses, help the elephants' immune systems counteract the AIDS.

Doctor Nick Riveria agreed with the officials, stating that "in most cases, [an elephant] can handle 2-3 Blair's Death Rain chips each morning!" Critics can't help but ask, why was Gita, then, given so many chips the day she died?

The zoo is currently undergoing investigations.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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