Elephants leave Toronto Zoo for greener pastures

Oct 18, 2013 | News

Photo Courtesy of Day Trips Canada

Elephant at the Toronto Zoo Courtesy: Day Trips Canada

By: Charlotte Hillyard-BakerPack your trunks, the Toronto Zoo’s three female elephants are en route to a sanctuary in the United States.

Iringa, Toka and Thika are headed to Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) Wildlife Sanctuary located in San Andreas, California.
They have been trained to stand in the crates for long periods of time to prepare them for the 5-day road trip.
Barry MacKay, Canadian Representative for Born Free USA, an animal advocacy group, said not only has this process taken too long, he doesn’t think transporting the elephants by truck is the most efficient means of travel.

“I wish that this were done earlier,” MacKay said.

“The elephants have reached an age that they tend to die, in their thirties or forties. So the sooner they got out of there, the happier they’d be and the bigger chance they’d have of some contentment at the other end where they are going to be given more room and space.”

MacKay said he would have rather seen the elephants fly to their new home.

“Although I would have rather that they were flown which was an option, but the zoo didn’t cooperate, so that didn’t happen,” he said.

“It’s not the happiest, but given that we didn’t have the zoo’s cooperation and therefore they were forced to send them by truck, they are going with top experts on moving elephants. It’s the best that we could hope for.”

Liz White, Director of Animal Alliance of Canada, an animal rights organization, said she was happy to know that the elephants are going to a sanctuary where they can be free.

“I think that what is so interesting about this debate is that these animals who have lived in concrete cages for all of their lives, 40 years plus, have an opportunity, after they get through this transport thing, they have an opportunity to go to this place where they’re as free as any animal can be given that they can’t be totally free,” White said.

“So they’ll be not penned in, not chained, there will be no bull hooks that will be used; They will not be in a concrete environment.”

White said PAWS is the best environment for the elephants, boasting a similar environment to what they would live in if they were in Africa.

On the other hand, she said she is happy that the elephants are leaving the barren concrete environment at the Toronto Zoo.

“They have been resistant to these animals going and I don’t know why,” White said.

“Why wouldn’t you want them to go to a sanctuary where they are going to have some freedom? I just don’t understand it. I am pleased that they are going today. I am glad that the decision has finally come to this. I hope that they will be safe throughout the trip.”

MacKay said he’s confident the new sanctuary will be a good fit for the elephants.

“I have had an advantage over many people in Toronto in that I have seen the sanctuary years ago, but its much better now. What I saw years ago was very re-assuring. We also had some experts on Tuberculosis and disease transmission check it out and they gave it a very high grade for protecting the animals from the spread of tuberculosis and the spread of diseases. So, I am very happy with the choice.”