For months now, activists have been working to relocate three elephants from the Toronto Zoo, and despite an apparent victory last December, things aren’t going smoothly for the pachyderms.
Last year, under pressure from PETA and Zoocheck Canada, the Toronto city council voted to relocate the elephants from the Toronto Zoo to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California. Super activist Bob Barker even stepped in and offered to pay for the transportation.
According to Barker, PAWS is an ideal location for the animals. “They have a mud hole; elephants love to play in the mud. They have a pool; some of them stay underwater practically the whole summer. And there are elephants for them to socialize with. Elephants come in that have been mistreated and been lonely and depressed, and they just blossom. It’s wonderful to behold.”
However, the zoo protested the move, because PAWS isn’t accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and because the zoo questioned the way PAWS treated elephants afflicted with tuberculosis.
Nevertheless, the transport was supposed to happen in April. Barker fronted the $850K necessary for the trip, and the Royal Canadian Air Force was supposed to provide the planes. At the end of March, the CEO of Canadian Federation of Humane Societies said that, “Airlifting the elephants would take about 20 hours, so within a day, the elephants could be at their new home.”
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.
Delays ensued, and now, according to the Toronto Star, National Defence officials in Ottawa are refusing to transport the elephants at this time. Part of the problem is the weather; it isn’t safe to move the elephants in the heat, and mid-June was the latest they could travel. Now the move will have to wait until the weather cools in the fall.
“It has been so frustrating, as we waited a full year while (Toronto) zoo staff stalled under the guise of due diligence, and now these further delays are not in the best interest of the animals,’’ said Julie Woodyer, a Zoocheck director.
Last week, National Defence issued a statement explaining their part in the delay. “We have been unable to resolve issues to allow for their move before the summer weather. We will continue negotiations with the City of Toronto but the earliest they could move would be the fall. These are discussions only, and no final decision has been made.”
In the meantime, Zoocheck is looking into other transportation options, including moving the elephants by truck, if it turns out the Canadian government won’t help.
Fingers crossed they find a speedy solution.