Toronto zoo votes to move elephant trio south
Published Thursday, May 12, 2011 6:44PM EDT
The Toronto Zoo has decided to say goodbye to three long-time residents, voting on Thursday to send their elephants – Toka, Thika and Iringa – to another zoo.
The Toronto Zoo Board of Management voted 5-2 in favour of retiring their popular pachyderms to another zoo instead of spending millions of dollars to build a new facility to house the animals.
The zoo had recently come under pressure from animal rights activists, including former "The Price is Right" host Bob Barker, who claimed Toronto does not have the right climate for elephants.
The zoo had determined that in order to keep the elephants in Toronto they would need to build the trio a new $16.5-million facility, and spend an additional $1 million a year on upkeep.
"The situation here has been a financial one," Coun. Josh Colle, a board member, told CTV Toronto. "We can't afford to give the habitat that these animals need here, so we have to move on. It is an opportunity for the zoo to renew, refocus and re-prioritize."
In the end, the board elected to move the elephants to a zoo accredited by American Association of Zoos and Aquariums, although other options would be considered if none came forward.
The decision came during a board meeting Thursday afternoon, held after the Performing Animal Welfare Society's co-founder Ed Stewart offered the elephants refuge at a huge California facility.
"I'm not going to steal anybody's elephants, I've never done that," said Stewart. "But they need to have choices. They need to walk up a hill, walk down a hill; go to the pond, don't go to the pond."
Zoo officials have said that it could take as long as two years of planning before the elephants are moved. However, board members on Thursday said the plan is to get the elephants on the road by October.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Natalie Johnson