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Court Tosses Out Suit by Pals of Pesky Pachyderm

February 14, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ When Lota, a 40-year-old Asian elephant, was banished from the Milwaukee Zoo for misbehaving, supporters rose noisily to her defense and the Humane Society went to court.

But a federal appeals court threw out the case Tuesday after expressing doubt about the depth of the supporters’ emotional involvement with Lota.

It all began in 1990 when the county zoo found itself with an elephant-sized headache. Lota, born in the wild and a zoo resident since she was 6, had been feuding with other Asian elephants _ in particular with an older elephant named Tammy.

The zoo donated Lota to the Hawthorn Corporation in Richmond, Ill., which breeds and trains animals for safari parks and circuses. Animal rights activists demonstrated outside the zoo.

Feelings were further ruffled by Lota’s resistance to being moved. She fell twice while being loaded onto a truck and left, bleeding and bruised.

The humane society sued on grounds the donation violated the Endangered Species Act. But the Interior Department designated Lota as being a ``pre-act animal,″ exempt from restrictions that bar their shipment for commercial purposes.

U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ruled against the society, which then turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

That court found the humane society had not shown it had been injured by what happened to Lota, a necessity for establishing ``standing″ in a court.

To establish that injury, a society representative, Michael Winikoff, submitted an affidavit and letters from society members, including one from Milwaukee resident Kay Mannes, a leader of the don’t-move-Lota forces.

Mannes claimed that ``I have been harmed by the absence of Lota because I have lost the opportunity to learn about an endangered animal, the Asian elephant.″

``Ms. Mannes does not actually explain how Lota’s departure, which reduced the number of Asian elephants from four to three, threatened her opportunity to observe Asian elephants,″ the appeals court said.

It noted, also, that only three of 83 letters submitted by Winikoff ``even mention that the writer has ever visited the Milwaukee Zoo. ... None asserts any injury because the writer is unable to see Lota again.″

Of another claim by a couple, the court said ``they never state that they have seen or visited Lota in the past or that they intend to do so in the future.″

Beside that, said the court, by the time the legal challenge was brought, Lota had already left the zoo and ``there are good reasons to think the zoo would be unwilling to take her back.″

After all, said the court, ``it was Lota’s interference with the well-being of other elephants at the zoo, which prompted the zoo to donate her to Hawthorn in the first place.″

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