Toronto Zoo Elephants Finally Arrive in California

The three Toronto Zoo elephants at the center of a relocation controversy that has raged for over two years (as reported by us last November), have finally reached their new home: a large wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, California, run by the Performing Animals Welfare Society.

Toka, 41, and Iringa, 43, have lived at the Toronto Zoo since 1974, but were born in Mozambique and orphaned as a result of a government-organized cull of their herds. Thika was born at the zoo on Oct. 18, 1980 – and what better way for her to celebrate her 33rd birthday than the prospect of a new, more suitable home?


Although Toronto’s city council voted to move Toka, Thika and Iringa to PAWS in October 2011, a series of disputes between animal rights activists and zoo representatives have delayed the process to such a degree that the elephants only left their old home on Thursday.

At the time of the council’s decision, Bob Barker, animal rights activist and TV presenter, told CBC Canada’s broadcasting service: “Canada is a wonderful place and I love Canadians. I loved them on The Price is Right and I love the country. But it ain’t no place for elephants.”

His statements were echoed by other activists and groups, who pointed out that the cool climate, small enclosures and inadequate exercise levels the elephants had been experiencing in Toronto were inappropriate for them.

The elephants traveled by truck, accompanied by several veterinarians and Toronto Zoo handlers. According to “The Fifth Estate” – CBC’s popular investigate program, who have been following Toka, Thika, and Iringa throughout the duration of their journey – regular pit stops have been made in order to feed, water, and clean the elephants. 54 bales of hay were prepared and packed for the journey.


After what has been described as a “minor incident” in Chicago involving some very startled border inspection agents (“I don’t think [they] believed what they were seeing,” said CBC producer Lynette Fortune), the elephants finally made it to their new home on Oct. 20!

Bob Barker, who donated $700,000 to cover the elephants’ transfer, said the elephants’ new home will allow them to “live the life that nature intended for them.”



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