After three years of petitions, arguments, agreements, disagreements, votes, flight plans, road plans, preparations, hold-ups, green lights, and more red lights, finally, yesterday evening at 10 p.m., two huge trucks pulled out of the Toronto Zoo carrying their precious cargo of three elephants. Finally, Toka, Thika and Iringa were on their way to the PAWS sanctuary in California.
Even the final departure was not without incident. According to Julie Woodyer, campaign director of Zoochek Canada, which is managing the transfer, senior zoo officials tried to create a further delay by calling in government officials to do a whole new check of the arrangements.
“I had to hire our attorney Clayton Ruby yet again to clean up this problem, [the] city manager’s office had to become involved, there were city lawyers in there,” she said. “The animals had been loaded and ready to be moved onto the trucks for at least five hours. And they were standing in those crates that extra time because those people had created that delay. I’m just sickened by it.”
The journey will be stressful for the elephants, who have been at the zoo since it opened in 1974. But Woodyer and her team are doing everything possible to make it more comfortable.
“They’re stopping every couple of hours to feed, to water, to clean, to rest the animals, to do veterinary checks,” she said in an interview at the Toronto Zoo. “They have prepared for every possible [happening], there are zoos along the route who have agreed to help if there were any case of emergency where the animals could in fact be offloaded in case of emergency.”
Canada’s CBC is riding along with the elephants. You can follow their blog here.
And for a history of the whole campaign to bring the elephants to freedom, you can search this site using the term “Toronto Zoo” or the names of any of the three elephants: Toka, Thika and Iringa.