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05/17/2011

Toronto Zoo elephants are getting new digs thanks to Bob Barker!   »

I was pretty sad when Bob Barker retired from The Price is Right, but it’s hard to argue with how he’s spent his time since. He’s an impressive activist for animals [Ed.: Always spay and neuter your pets!], and now he gets some credit for another victory: the three elephants at the Toronto Zoo will soon be moving to a more pachyderm-appropriate location than, you know, Canada.

I love Toka, Thika and Iringa; that’s why I want to see them in a better home. Toronto’s not as cold as some people think—we do not live in igloos here—but it’s definitely a lot chillier than an elephant’s natural habitat. Their current facility at the Toronto Zoo just isn’t cutting it, and a new one would be prohibitively expensive. Also, the three ladies are no spring pachyderms anymore, and as they get older, January in Canada is only going to get rougher on them. Bob Barker agrees, so much so that he’s offered to foot the bill himself in order to get the three Toronto elephants somewhere more comfortable. He’s suggested sanctuaries in California and Tennessee.
That kind of move is closer than ever before now that the Toronto Zoo Board has agreed that the elephants should be moved to a new home, either a zoo or a sanctuary. The board decided last week that their 36-year elephant program should end, but they haven’t yet figured out where its three residents should go. They’ve opened it up to other interested zoos, and the Granby zoo in Quebec wants them. Their facility, which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, certainly seems like a better fit than the Toronto Zoo’s outdated digs, but Quebec’s climate isn’t any better for elephants than Toronto’s, frankly.

Another option that’s being considered is a sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society, which is the option supported by Barker and the watchdog group Zoocheck Canada. The Toronto Zoo board worries that it’s not AZA-accredited like a zoo can be, but Barker and Zoocheck vouch for the sanctuary and point out that the California climate is certainly a better fit for an animal with a natural habitat in places like Africa and India.

It’s going to take a couple years for the process of finding a new home and moving the elephants to be complete, but the good news right now is that one way or another, Toka, Thinga and Iringa will end up somewhere more suitable for them. A lot of people in Toronto will probably be sad to see them go, but this is my suggestion: once the elephants have moved on, how about putting up a display honoring the elephants’ time in Toronto and explaining why they were moved and where they’ve gone? It’s a great way to teach kids that being a good steward of animals, not maintaining a tourist attraction at all costs, is what’s really important.

Terri lives in Toronto, Ont., where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. Photo from the National Post.

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