Three elephants from the Toronto Zoo are now on their way to a 2,300-acre animal sanctuary in San Andreas.
The African elephants — named Iringa, Thika and Toka — are expected to live the rest of their lives at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 sanctuary. It is unknown exactly when they will arrive.
“The trip is on elephant time,” said PAWS spokeswoman Kim Gardner. “There will be stops for fuel and breaks, of course, but our absolute priority is the welfare of the elephants.”
PAWS, a nonprofit organization founded in 1984, houses elephants, tigers, lions and bears who were retired or rescued from zoos, circuses and neglectful conditions.
Bob Barker, a longtime PAWS supporter and former game show host of “The Price is Right,” is paying to move the pachyderms.
The transfer was approved by the Toronto City Council two years ago, but has hit numerous delays including debate over how the elephants should be transported and whether PAWS is the best place for them.
Massimo Bergamini, executive director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, issued a statement Thursday saying that CAZA opposed the council’s decision to move the elephants to PAWS, citing health concerns and the distance of the 2,600-mile journey.
“It is important to note that council’s decision was made against the recommendation of Toronto Zoo staff that had wanted the animals moved to an alternative site, the National Elephant Center in Florida,” Bergamini said.
The Toronto Zoo held “public viewings” last weekend for people to say goodbye to the elephants, and a candlelight vigil was held outside of the zoo Wednesday night, according to Toronto media reports.
The zoo is closing its elephant exhibit for a variety of reasons, including concerns about Canada’s cold climate.