KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Animal lovers are going to court to prevent the breakup of what they say is a beautiful elephant friendship.

Backed by the Humane Society and other animal-protection groups, a Los Angeles woman sued on Wednesday to stop the Los Angeles Zoo from transferring a 42-year-old African elephant named Ruby to the Knoxville Zoo. Ruby has lived with Gita, a 45-year-old Asian elephant, for 16 years.

The zoos are working out details for the move, which is expected before the end of the month. Both zoos said the lawsuit will not change their plans.

The lawsuit, filed in California by Catherine Doyle, claims that separating the elephants would harm them and that California's warmer climate is better for elephants.

``You go out to the zoo, and there they are swaying together and rubbing their trunks,'' said Gretchen Wyler, vice president of the Humane Society in Hollywood. ``All Americans know the bonding between the elephants more than any other species. They will mourn over their dead.''

Los Angeles Zoo officials call Gita ``tolerant of Ruby'' and say Ruby would be better off with other African elephants at the Knoxville Zoo.

``We have a family waiting for her,'' Knoxville Zoo spokesman William Becker said.

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On the Net:

Los Angeles Zoo: http://www.lazoo.org

Knoxville Zoo: http://www.knoxville-zoo.org

Humane Society: http://www.hsus.org/ace/14860