It started with a push from the game show host earlier this year, and now three elephants at The Toronto Zoo are preparing for their trek to a much warmer home in California.
Bob Barker has also offered to cover the full cost of transportation so that the elephants can reside in a warmer facility with more open space.
In a statement displayed on the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) website, Barker is quoted as saying, “I want them to have the most efficient and humane transition to their new home...I said this would not cost the city a penny and I want to assure them it won't.”
Over the last five years or so, four elephants have died at the zoo, leaving Toka, Thika and Iringa on their own. According to Toronto city councillor and zoo board member Glenn De Baeremaeker, the female elephants are considered to be “senior citizens” in elephant years and are deserving of a more suitable environment.
“The facility we built for the elephants about 30 years ago, just don't meet today's standards. We have about a one acre compound and the sanctuary in California that we're sending them to has an 80 acre compound.”
The cost to make the current compound bigger would be between $15-20 million, which is more than the city can afford.
“And we didn't want to bring in more elephants to a facility we thought was inadequate. It's also very cold in the city of Toronto, especially with the windchill and it's just too cold for our elephants. They've worked hard for a long time and it's time to send them down south to enjoy a paradise, much like most of our seniors want to do,” explains De Baeremaeker.
Toronto city council voted in late October to send the elephants south of the border and now the appropriate steps are being made to get the transfer process underway.
“The training itself doesn't take that long, but the paper work to export elephants takes longer than the training of the elephant to enter a crate,” says De Baeremaeker.
He adds it will take about two to three months to do all of the paper work to ensure the elephants are healthy and safe before travelling. Officials hope to have the elephants in the California sanctuary by next April.
A live camera will be set up in California so that people who visit The Toronto Zoo can watch the elephants on giant film screens. An educational and interactive exhibit will also be set up for visitors to enjoy.
With files from The Canadian Press