Elephants from Toronto Zoo arrive at new home in California
Published Sunday, October 20, 2013 6:35PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 21, 2013 12:16AM EDT
Three elephants from the Toronto Zoo have arrived at their new home at a California sanctuary after a three-day road trip.
A truck carrying Toka and Iringa arrived at the Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) Sanctuary near Sacramento around 8:30 p.m. EDT.
A separate truck carrying the youngest elephant, Thika, was travelling in another truck and arrived about an hour later.
Their arrival at the PAWS sanctuary follows a long debate about their future, which saw squabbling between politicians, zookeepers and officials at PAWS.
City council voted to move the animals in October 2011 and reaffirmed the decision a year later.
Activists pushing for the animals to be moved have argued the concrete floor of their Toronto enclosure was harmful to their bodies and that the climate here is too cold for the creatures.
The push to transfer the elephants even attracted the attention of animal activist and former “Price is Right” host Bob Barker, who is contributing $700,000 toward the move.
Speaking with CP24 shortly before the elephants’ arrival Sunday evening, Barker took aim at the Toronto Zoo, saying he felt zoo staff had obstructed the transfer process.
“The zoo has made it as difficult as possible,” Barker said. “They’ve dug up every possible excuse why they (the elephants) can’t come to PAWS.”
Barker said he’s a frequent visitor to the sanctuary and he lauded the staff there as experts who are animal lovers first.
“Their new home will be acres and acres of land and they can roam around to their hearts’ content,” Barker said.
He said the elephants’ new home will include mud holes, swimming pools and fulltime veterinary care.
Toronto Zoo employees had expressed concern that the long journey could be stressful for the animals and endanger their health.
“We are extremely proud of the Toronto Zoo staff who have been so dedicated and committed to these three animals over the years, but particularly for their professionalism throughout the load process which was also a very emotional time,” the zoo said in a press release issued Friday.
The fighting continued all the way to the animals’ departure, with officials from Zoocheck, a zoo watchdog group, accusing zoo staff of loading the animals too early to try and scuttle the move.
However two zookeepers from Toronto accompanied the elephants on their journey and the transfer was also being monitored by Zoocheck.
The three elephants eventually left Toronto around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night and crossed over the U.S. border around 5:30 a.m. on Friday.
They were originally scheduled to arrive at the sanctuary around 6 p.m. EDT.
NOTE: An advertised live stream of the elephants' arrival was unfortunately unavailable due to technical difficulties in California.
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