Phoenix's painting elephant heads to Oklahoma for mate

The Associated Press

PHOENIX Ruby the pachyderm is putting her painting career on hold while she tries to get pregnant.

The 22-year-old Asian elephant, whose paintings have raised about $450,000 for the Phoenix Zoo, is headed to Oklahoma for an 18-month courtship with Sneezy, a 23-year-old Asian elephant at the Tulsa zoo.

He will be her first mate, and Ruby's keepers in Phoenix hope she will return pregnant.

An international team of biologists, working to save Ruby's endangered species from extinction, picked her as one of the best-suited Asian elephants in North America to reproduce.

North American zoos have about 150 Asian elephants. About 40,000 of the animals survive in Asia, but some experts predict the elephants may be extinct in the wild within 20 years, largely from loss of habitat as forests are converted to cropland.

Born in Thailand, Ruby has lived in Phoenix since she was 7 months old.

From doodling in the sand with her trunk, she developed a knack for applying paint to canvas with a brush held in her trunk.

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