“This is Shangri-La.” It didn’t take much coaxing to get Ruby, the only Los Angeles elephant to retire to a sanctuary, into her $3.5 million digs east of San Andreas, about 40 miles northeast of Stockton. She had been on the road well before dawn, joined by a caravan of keepers and zoo officials, who stopped to feed and comfort her through the dusty San Joaquin Valley. In the 24 hours before her departure, she had many visits from longtime fans. “I’m sad to see her go,” said Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, who brought her a loaf of pumpkin bread from the Monastery of the Angels for her journey. “The time has come.” Activists were ecstatic, as the majestic pachyderm from Los Angeles segued from a small off-site yard into a 75-acre habitat with three other African elephants, Mara, 71 and Lulu. Zoo officials, including General Manager John Lewis, were enthusiastic. The sanctuary gave Ruby an elephantine welcome after she ambled into her 20,000-square-foot barn, replete with a private room and 40-foot Jacuzzi. “She’s a beautiful, beautiful girl,” said PAWS co-founder Pat Derby, looking at the newest addition to the herd. “She looks very relaxed and very comfortable … She’ll be really great here.” Outside, Asian elephants basked in a soft breeze near a 5-acre lake while the other Africans waited to meet the newest addition to the herd. Inside, Ruby quietly explored her quarters, wrapping her trunk around bars of 6- to 8-inch pipe as she apparently sensed other elephants. Before long, she was bouncing her boomer ball. She snacked on acacia and performed a slow pirouette before a crowd of hushed and awed visitors. The city-owned pachyderm will remain at PAWS indefinitely. PAWs officials, as well as activists who had fought for larger quarters for Ruby and other elephants, praised the zoo and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for making the journey possible. Melya Kaplan, who has worked for eight years to free elephants from the Los Angeles Zoo, said she didn’t have the words to describe seeing Ruby put out to pasture. “It’s indescribable,” said Kaplan, executive director of Voice for the Animals, crying as she watched Ruby play with her Los Angeles keepers. “She’ll finally get the life she deserves.” Lewis, who accompanied the elephant into the Gold Country, said Ruby’s move will allow the zoo to concentrate on building a $39 million Pachyderm Forest for endangered Asian elephants, of which only 35,000 remain in the wild from India to China. The 6-acre exhibit will have a 3.7-acre elephant habitat with lakes and ponds and is expected to be finished by early 2009. He said seeing Ruby go has been a “bittersweet” experience for him and his staff. The journey, made by an experienced animal hauler with more than 800 elephant carries to his credit, went without a hitch. “She’s a trooper,” he said before cutting a cake in her honor. “We’re really happy with the way she responded when the truck backed up. It was like, `Oh, boy, here we go again.’ But she got right on.” Her hosts at PAWs, he said “are there to take care of her. They’ll do a good job.” Derby, an author and former Hollywood wild animal trainer for such series as “Lassie,” “Daktari” and “Flipper,” founded PAWs with marketing executive in 1987 to care for abused, abandoned or retired performing animals. Today, they have three wildlife refuges in Northern California. ARK2000 also provides a haven for 35 formerly abused tigers. They said that in coming days, zoo keepers will work with PAWs staff to integrate Ruby into the African elephant herd. After a period of separation, she will be allowed to roam a 10-acre habitat before being allowed to join other African elephants on the 750-acre preserve. “They’ll have to make friends,” Derby said. “She’ll be able to climb the hills, run, tear up the brush and trees – doing a lot of elephant stuff.” As the sun waned Tuesday, Ruby took her first steps out of the barn. She poked her head through the barn door, walked five feet from the gate, and reached her long trunk next to the fence and pulled from the dirt a clump of wild grass. Then she stuffed it into her mouth – dirt, roots and all. [email protected] (818) 713-3730 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SAN ANDREAS – The truck door opened like a window onto Oz as Ruby the elephant lumbered into paradise. After seven hours on the road and 40 years spent in circuses and zoos, the 46-year-old African elephant from the Los Angeles Zoo retired Tuesday to the rolling hills of Northern California. From the savannah to the Cal-vannah at the Performing Animal Welfare Society ARK2000 elephant sanctuary, Ruby entered a 2,300-acre preserve of grass-covered hills, majestic oaks and shimmering lakes not unlike her original home. “I’m very emotional,” said Rosemary Arnot, 60, of Santa Clarita, a PAWS donor who had followed Ruby’s 375-mile route from Los Angeles to the Sierra foothills of Calavaras County. “I believe it is a glorious homecoming – look how beautiful this is.