The Toronto Zoo will put its international accreditation on the line after re-confirming plans to move its three elephants to an animal sanctuary in California.

The zoo's board of directors decided on Thursday that it would move ahead and ship Toka, Thika and Iringa to the Paws animal sanctuary instead of another zoo in the U.S, despite threats from North America's zoo oversight groups.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums along with its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, responded to an October decision to move the animals to the animal sanctuary by threatening to strip the Toronto Zoo of its own accreditation.

The AZA, which does not accredit the Paws sanctuary, called the decision to ship the three elephants to the park "troubling," adding that once ownership of the elephants was relinquished "the Zoo and the people of Toronto will have no say, ever again, in how its elephants are treated."

In a letter to the zoo board, CAZA said the decision "has raised serious questions to the accreditation standards maintained by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and therefore to Toronto Zoo's accreditation."

Coun. Glenn de Baeremaker says the AZA's letter was an empty threat, adding that other zoos have sent their elephants to a sanctuary without having their accreditation pulled.

If the Toronto Zoo lost its AZA accreditation, it would no longer be able to borrow animals from other accredited facilities. About 175 of Toronto's zoo animals are currently on loan from other facilities.