Toronto Zoo’s trio of aging African elephants doesn’t have to start packing their trunks just yet for California’s Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary.
They won’t be leaving until September, says Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada, the local organization working on behalf of the PAWS sanctuary. The animals had been scheduled to leave in August after months of delays.
City council voted Oct. 2011 that the animals be sent to the sanctuary.
“The heat is a big problem because they are in steel crates,” said Woodyer, adding that while the cargo aircraft they’ll travel on is climate-controlled, the summer heat while loading the animals could cause problems. “There’s no point in taking a risk for the sake of a month.”
But reports about a case of an Asian elephant with tuberculosis at PAWS has some pachyderm lovers concerned that PAWS isn’t the best place for Toronto’s African elephants Iringa, 42, Toka, 41, and Thika, 31.
Two small groups of picketers took up spots outside the zoo Sunday, both sides insisting they have the animals’ welfare at heart.
Lisa Selby of Scarborough, one of three women holding signs demanding the elephants not go to PAWS, said a case of tuberculosis at the sanctuary shows it’s not the best place for them.
“I just want the elephants to go to a safe home that has the least risk of disease,” said Selby, who has set up an information picket each Sunday for the past several weeks.
Selby said the elephants may be better off at another facility such the under-construction National Elephant Center in Florida or perhaps even to a different zoo. “It doesn’t have to be sanctuary vs. zoo,” she said.
Across Meadowvale Rd., pro-PAWS supporter Steve Gordon and four others holding signs reading “Free the Toronto Zoo Elephants,” said the animals have to be moved as soon as possible, certainly before winter. He’s been at the corner Sunday mornings for the past 10 weeks.
“It’s so common sense,” Gordon, a retired computer consultant from Holland Landing said. “Elephants need the room and they are just not built for a zoo.”