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Bob Barker gets his wish: Toronto Zoo sends pachyderms packing

Three elephants neither at the Toronto Zoo nor in Quebec (Image: Nils Rinaldi)

On Thursday, the board of directors of the Toronto Zoo voted to send three elephants south after former Price is Right host Bob Barker and zoo watchdog group Zoocheck lobbied heavily for the African Bush elephants to be relocated somewhere more akin to their natural habitat. When the news broke, it appeared the three females—Toka, Thika and Iringa—were destined to escape Ontario’s winter blahs for California’s sunny shores (apparently, even Canadian elephants move to the southern U.S. when they retire). But now it looks like the elephants will actually be heading north to the Granby Zoo in Quebec, where the winters are just as cold but the facility is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

While the move is largely informed by a concerned for the animals well-being—hence the decision not to send them to a non-certified facility in San Andreascash also had a little something to do with it. From the Toronto Sun:

The board voted down the option of an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee or California for fear of mistreatment of the animals.

Five of seven members preferred a facility that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) after realizing the board doesn’t have the money to build the new enclosure or afford the animals’ $1-million annual upkeep bill.

So, the elephants are going somewhere nicer (sort of?) and the zoo is cutting costs, much to elephant-loving councillor and former budget chief Shelley Carroll’s pleasure. Also, now that a few extra bucks are kicking around, we assume the zoo’s new Chinese overlords—pandas, which could arrive by 2012—will see a funding spike, this time, much to Giorgio Mammoliti’s pleasure.

Zoo elephants to pack trunks [Toronto Sun]
Elephants to retire south, zoo board decides [Globe and Mail]
Toronto Zoo to cancel elephant program [CBC]

  • Connie

    “The board voted down the option of an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee or California for fear of mistreatment of the animals.” This is hogwash. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is a wonderful place for these elephants. 2700 acres of woodland, lakes and trees to roam to their hearts content. No visitors are allowed. A resident vet and 10 caretakers on site. Those elephants deserve to live out the rest of their lives in such a place and not in another zoo on display for humans to gawk at. Check it out for yourself instead of relying on someone who is completely ignorant of what a wonderful place it is. The Sanctuary will probably pick them up and transport them to Tennessee free of charge. That’s how much they care about elephants.

  • Ryan

    “No visitors are allowed.” -Connie

    From the location’s website she advertises,

    “The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee offers three great ways for people to visit…One is our VIP Pledge Program. By pledging $2,000 or more each year for five consecutive years, you may enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sanctuary…As a true sanctuary, we are not open to the general public.”

    It sounds like visitors ARE allowed, but only if you have A LOT of money that the park can profit from. $10,000 or more to see the elephants? The Toronto Zoo is offering a steal with $23 general admission (less for children and seniors).

    If you pay the $10,000+, is there a “No Gawking” rule, unlike the cheaper zoos?

  • Kelly

    I worked at the elephant sanctuary in tn and i can tell you, i have never seen elephants so happy in my life. they can actually be elephants and are never asked to entertain humans or be put on display and stared at. i think after several years of zoo life, every elephant deserves this kind of freedom to live out the remainder of their lives. when you think of whats truly right for elephants, the elephant sanctuary and PAWS is it, period.

  • alyne16

    The AZA’s guidelines are shamefully low so they are inclusive of even the worst zoos. These poor elephants will still be locked up in a tiny barn stall for 16 hours a day for 7 or more months each year. Shameful.

  • gretchen

    gandhi wrote: “a measure of a society is in the way it treats it’s animals”

    we’re fucked.