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Animal rights groups blast San Diego Zoo over death of elephant

An animal rights group has called for a federal investigation into the death of an elephant at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Umoya, a 21-year-old African elephant, died Thursday, possibly due to injuries suffered during an attack by another elephant.

The Northern California-based In Defense of Animals called for the Department of Agriculture, which does inspections of zoos, to investigate Umoya's death.

"This elephant's shocking death is another tragic example of how elephants suffer in inadequate and artificial zoo exhibits," said Catherine Doyle, elephant campaign director for the group.

As part of standard procedure, Umoya's death has already been reported to federal officials by the zoo.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also criticized the zoo in the wake of the death. "Umoya should never have been removed from her home to begin with," said PETA spokesman David Perle.

Umoya was one of seven elephants brought to the Safari Park -- then known as the Wild Animal Park -- in 2003 from the African nation of Swaziland. The Safari Park has 18 elephants, including Umoya's two offspring.

PETA and In Defense of Animals oppose keeping elephants in zoos.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Umoya, African elephant. Credit: San Diego Zoological Society 

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