Barker plans to spend own funds on T.O. elephants
Mary Gazze, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, April 14, 2011 6:25PM EDT
Bob Barker says he will contribute some of his own money to help move three Toronto elephants to a wildlife sanctuary in a warmer climate.
The former "Price Is Right" host and animal activist will be in Toronto on Friday to convince the city's zoo to send elephants Toka, Thika and Iringa to new homes in the U.S.
"If they transfer the elephants to a sanctuary in the United States, the organizations that are involved in this are going to pay for it and I will undoubtedly contribute financially to that," Barker said in a phone interview from California. "We would like nothing better than to get the elephants out of the zoo and into a sanctuary in a climate that's more conducive to happy and healthy elephants."
For the last three years, the Toronto Zoo has studied whether to close the elephant exhibit or spend $40 million on upgrades. A vote is planned for May 12.
Barker and animal activists want the elephants moved to a sanctuary in California or Tennessee, where they have more space and softer ground in the winter, which would help prevent potentially painful foot infections.
Activists want the exhibit replaced with a science-centre type elephant display that includes educational videos and activities.
"You don't have to go and watch some poor animal stand there and bob its head up and down all day having given up all hope of ever having a decent life, probably suffering from arthritis and chronic foot disease," Barker said. "That is no education."
Barker said he thinks the Toronto Zoo is being receptive and seems to genuinely care about the welfare of the elephants.
The former game show host has previously spent more than $1.5 million of his own money to help move elephants from Alaska, Illinois, and Northern California to warmer climates.
He offered Edmonton city hall $100,000 so its lone elephant Lucy cold get another checkup from experts chosen by animal protection group Zoocheck Canada to treat respiratory problems and arthritis.
The city has turned down the offer, saying it has its own experts and Lucy is well cared for by keepers she's known for many years.
Her home, the Edmonton Valley Zoo, took second place on a list of the worst zoos for elephants this year, while In Defense of Animals placed Toronto in that position back in 2009.
At least four elephants have died at the Toronto Zoo in the past five years. Elephants have lived there since it opened in 1974.
"Since then, the management of captive elephants, the status of wild elephants, and public awareness of issues relating to elephants have all changed substantially," the zoo said in a statement Thursday.
Its studies looked at the health and well being of elephants, conservation and education commitments, upgrading costs, and available funding.
Several zoos have shuttered their elephant exhibits in recent years, including the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, Bronx Zoo in New York City, and a zoo in Detroit.
"We're hopeful that all of the elephant exhibits in Canada will be closed, I think there are no only two left, three in Toronto and that poor, long-suffering Lucy in Edmonton," Barker said.