Wonderful news, from the PAWS newsletter below! Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants applauds Torontonians, their City Council and the Toronto Zoo’s Board of Directors for their compassion and courage in making the science-based decision to allow their elephants to live out their lives at the PAWS Arc 2000 elephant sanctuary.  Let’s hope this serves as an example for Bamboo, Chai and Watoto.

From Canada To California,
Toka, Thika and Iringa Have Arrived At ARK 2000

Today, October 20, three African elephants from the Toronto Zoo in Ontario, Canada, arrived safely at our ARK 2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, California. Their trip was funded by Award-winning television host, Bob Barker, who ardently advocated for the move, while PAWS assumes the financial responsibility for the lifelong care of the elephants. The elephants, Toka, age 43, Thika, age 33, and Iringa, age 44, will eventually share an 80-acre natural habitat with the sanctuary’s three resident African elephants, Mara, Maggie and Lulu.

“We are very happy that Toka, Thika and Iringa are finally here,” said PAWS’ president and co-founder, Ed Stewart. “PAWS looks forward to seeing these elephants make the transition from living in a zoo for most, if not all, of their lives, to exploring their expansive new home and meeting our resident African elephants. The elephants will receive excellent care from a dedicated staff, as they settle into their new lives at our sanctuary.”

“This move has been a long time coming, but what matters is that the elephants are here,” said Bob Barker, who was there to welcome the elephants, along with United Activists for Animal Rights president Nancy Burnet. “I am so excited for Toka, Iringa and Thika. The PAWS sanctuary is a place where elephants can just be elephants. It truly is a paradise for these magnificent animals.”

“After their cross-country journey, our first priority is getting them settled in and comfortable in their new home,” said Dr. Jackie Gai, DVM, PAWS’ veterinarian. “I’m looking forward to getting to know Iringa, Toka, and Thika, and we are committed to providing them with the best care possible.”

“PAWS thanks all of the people who made the road trip with Iringa, Thika and Toka,” said Stewart. “You couldn’t find a better or more qualified crew.” California-based Active Environments coordinated the move, under the direction of Margaret Whittaker. Accompanying the elephants on their trip to ARK 2000 were Dr. Joel Parrott, DVM, Executive Director, Oakland Zoo; Pat Lampi, Executive Director, Alaska Zoo; Dr. Angela Goodnight, DVM, Associate Veterinarian, Oakland Zoo; Jeff Kinzley, Elephant Manager, Oakland Zoo; Scott Blais, International Elephant Consultant, Co-founder, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

The Toronto Zoo board voted in May 2011 to end the zoo’s elephant program and send the elephants to another facility. The decision was based on a recommendation made in a March 2011 report that cited the high cost of building a new elephant facility, among other issues. In October 2011, the Toronto City Council voted 31-4 to move the elephants to PAWS.

The move comes amid a larger debate about the suitability of keeping elephants in captivity, and on the heels of documentaries such as HBO’s “An Apology To Elephants” (for which Lily Tomlin won an Emmy) and The Fifth Estate’s “The Elephant in the Room,” and The Seattle Times’ 2012 report on elephants in zoos, “Glamour Beasts: The Dark Side of Elephant Captivity.”

To date, 25 zoos have closed, or will be closing, their elephant exhibits, for reasons ranging from lack of funding for exhibit expansions to welfare concerns such as inadequate space, unsuitably cold climates, and insufficient social groups. Other zoos are enlarging older exhibits to provide more space for their elephants.

In the coming days and weeks we will be issuing updates, photos, and videos of the elephants to let you know how they’re settling into their new home. Check our website, like us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and watch your “in” box.

Welcome Toka, Iringa and Thika.

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