If you'd like to discuss bizarre exits, take a look Toka Thika and Iringa – the three African elephants that are finally set to leave the Toronto Zoo and head to a California animal sanctuary. It is a departure years in the making and one that left Ontarians with an abundance of confusion right up to the end.
The Toronto Star reports that the three elephants were set to leave the city by truck on Thursday, with the help of two zookeepers who were asked, and declined, to sign a non-disclosure agreement blocking them from discussion the adventure.
After a bit of a kerfuffle an agreement was reached that will allow the zookeepers to discuss the trip, but not photograph or record it in any way.
Asked why the zookeepers wouldn't be allowed to document the trip, union president Christine McKenzie told the Star, "I don't know. That's the question we're all asking." (Hint: The fact that expert fear the trip to California could be deadly for the three aging elephants might have something to do with it.)
The massive animals have been loaded into crates and will be on the back of a truck for the entirety of the 50-hour drive to California's Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
It will be the trio's final Toronto chapter, after an extended debate about whether a cold-weather zoo should house pachyderms. Debate about the survival of the Toronto Zoo’s elephant exhibit first began in earnest in 2011, although the deaths of three elephants in the preceding years likely prompted the debate.
In October 2011, Toronto city council votes to send the elephants to the U.S. facility after former game show host Bob Barker offers to pay to fly them there himself. Legal and logistical wrangling between the zoo and PAWS led to several delays. In September 2012, the debate centred around transportation. Both groups agree a plane was the best option, but can't agree on the process.
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By November 2012, there had been so many delays that city council again voted to transfer the elephants, this time insisting it happen by the end of that year. They even bizarrely called for Edmonton to do the same, which did not go over well in Alberta.
Now, nearly a year after that, the transfer is finally taking place. Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums is voicing its opposition to the transfer, citing fears that the elephants will be exposed to TB at the sanctuary. And experts have questioned the final decision to transport the animals across the continent by truck, rather than plane.
Regardless, Toka Thika and Iringa bid adieu to Toronto. Their departure couldn’t be delayed forever.
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