As the Toronto Zoo Board meets in Scarborough for the last time before three African elephants are chained in crates and driven for 80 hours to California, the union representing their keepers and animal professionals renewed their call for politicians and administrators to live up to their commitments and ‘do what’s best’ for Toka, Thika and Iringa.
“The system has failed these elephants. Politicians and administrators have failed to live up to their responsibilities to put the elephants’ best interests at heart,” said Matthew Berridge, Vice-President of Local 1600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 1600).
In 2011, Toronto City Council, which has ultimate responsibility for the Zoo, voted to move the elephants to the Performing Arts Wildlife Sanctuary (PAWS) in California. An alternative endorsed by zookeepers, animal care professionals and ethicists was deemed too risky for the elephants because it involved a one-and-a-half day ground transport.
“We disagreed with the decision, but said if they are to be moved, the best place is in Florida and the best way is by air,” said Berridge.
“The best professional advice from zookeepers and animal care experts was ignored. These elephants are going to the wrong facility and in the wrong mode,” he added.
“Councillor Berardinetti, who championed sending the elephants to PAWS, specifically cited the fact that the PAWS option would only see the elephants in transport for a few hours, while transporting them by ground to Florida would take a day-and-a-half, while urging her fellow councillors to ‘do what’s best for the elephants,’” said Berridge.
“Can she now explain why she thinks transporting them chained in crates for 80 straight hours over land to PAWS is ‘what’s best for the elephants?’” he added.
The Zoo has announced it will send Toka, Thika and Iringa to PAWS in October on an, as yet, to-be-announced date.
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CUPE 1600 Vice-President