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TORONTO, ON – The loss of the Toronto Zoo’s Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accreditation could be a disastrous effect on the Toronto Zoo according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1600 president.

The loss of our AZA accreditation puts the Toronto Zoo in a very precarious position,” says Grant Ankenman, president of CUPE 1600, representing workers, including animal keepers at the Toronto Zoo.

I had concerns that the zoo had lost their vital accreditation and actually visited the AZA website on Monday and discovered that the Toronto Zoo was no longer listed as an accredited member of AZA.

We are troubled by the possibility that other AZA accredited zoos may not participate in any transfer of animals or the Species Survival Programs (SSP) because we no longer belong to the association.

One of the important functions the Toronto Zoo performs is participating internationally in the SSP programs – our conservation programs have been acclaimed around the world and our education program is second to none,” Ankenman continued.

The AZA cancelled the accreditation of the Toronto Zoo because of a governance issue. According to AZA policies and guidelines, the boards of management and CEO must have complete control of all animals in their care. When Toronto Council voted to send Toronto’s three African elephants at Toronto Zoo to PAWS in California, it ensured that the zoo did not have total governance of their animals and, accordingly, AZA removed the Toronto Zoo from their list of accredited facilities.

We have many questions: How will this affect the pandas coming to Toronto? How severely will our programs be affected? Where is the report from the Toronto Zoo critiquing PAWS? Is city council aware, and are they concerned, that there is a history of TB at PAWS, and that sending our elephants there, may be putting their health, potentially, at risk? Does this affect our status with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums?

Despite what the mayor and zoo administration say, moving animals to PAWS, where there is TB and losing our accreditation, is not final; we can change things,” said Ankenman.

We must also remember that the Toronto Zoo was a forerunner in the care and training of elephants and other animals at the zoo. We implemented the training and husbandry programs that AZA now adheres to, plus the Elephant Management Association (EMA) awarded us with their Gold Standard as far as our elephant program is concerned,” Ankenman continued.

The statements that animal activists have made that elephants living in northern climates is detrimental to their health has never been scientifically proven. I can point to African Lion Safari’s Asian elephant program which is highly successful,” Ankenman concluded. 

For further information, please contact:

Grant Ankenman
President, CUPE Local 1600
(416) 579-2873

Russ Armstrong
CUPE National Representative
(416) 953-9527

Wendy Forbes
CUPE Communications
(416) 892-8716