Written by Michelle Kretzer
Update: When the plan to hire a Russian cargo jet to
take the Toronto Zoo's three elephants to a Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary
didn't work out, the Royal Canadian Air Force stepped up. Now, as soon as
Defence Minister Peter Mackay gives the thumbs-up, Toka, Thika, and Iringa will
be flying high courtesy of a C-17 transport aircraft and a military endeavour
dubbed "Operation Dumbo Drop."
The following was originally published on November 29, 2012:
It could be only a matter of days until the Toronto Zoo's three captive elephants, Toka, Thika, and Iringa, let the frozen Canadian ground fade into the distance as they set off for their new home: the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in sunny California. After a long campaign by Zoocheck Canada, PETA members, and the compassionate members of the Toronto City Council, the trio will trade their zoo enclosure for acres of varied natural terrain, lakes to bathe in, heated barns, and even therapeutic whirlpool baths. Although the elephants' tale has a storybook ending, their journey to freedom certainly wasn't without conflict.
jmbone | cc by 2.0
The Long Road Home
When the Toronto Zoo, under pressure from Bob Barker, Zoocheck Canada, and PETA, initially agreed to release its captive elephants, it was determined to simply ship them to another decrepit zoo. But the Toronto City Council sided with animal advocates and voted for the gentle giants to be retired to PAWS instead.
Then it seemed as though one of the elephants' foot ailments might make the 40-hour drive too dangerous. So animal advocate extraordinaire Bob Barker stepped up and provided the trio with their own "Elephant Force One" of sorts, a private plane that will quickly whisk them to their new home. The Toronto Zoo then raised concerns about the potential for tuberculosis at PAWS, but an independent infectious-disease report determined that the facility was safe. Once again, the Toronto City Council voted, and once again, it resoundingly insisted that the elephants be sent to PAWS immediately.
A Tale of Two Cities
The Toronto City Council also said in its final motion on Toka, Thika, and Iringa that it feels that Edmonton, Alberta's, Valley Zoo should allow the zoo's lonely elephant, Lucy, to retire to PAWS as well. Because elephants are ill-equipped to tolerate frigid weather, Lucy is forced to spend the winter months confined to a small barn. Our lawsuit to free Lucy did not succeed despite the wonderful comments of one judge who felt Lucy should be free but who could not persuade the other judges on the panel. Lucy hasn't had the company of any other elephant in four long years. But Zoocheck Canada and PETA are determined to win her freedom, and Bob Barker is advocating for her with all his might.
What You Can Do
Please join us in asking Edmonton officials to give Lucy the peaceful retirement that she so deserves.
Written by Heather Faraid Drennan
Update: Animal friend and philanthropist Bob Barker is paying the entire cost of shipping Toka, Thika, and Iringa from Toronto to the PAWS sanctuary in California.
The following was originally posted on November 25, 2011:
To thank the three members of the Toronto City Council who spearheaded the vote to send the three elephants at the Toronto Zoo to a sanctuary, we sent them each a box of vegan chocolates and a Compassionate Legislator Award certificate. The City Council voted 31 to 4 to allow Iringa, Toka, and Thika to leave the freezing Canadian winters behind and spend the rest of their days roaming with other retired elephants at California's spacious Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary.
Elephants in Canadian zoos—including Lucy, the lone elephant in the Edmonton Zoo—spend much of their time indoors since they cannot tolerate the winter cold and snow. They often suffer from arthritis and other painful ailments as a result of the lack of exercise and standing on hard surfaces for prolonged periods. While the compassionate city councillors recognized the need to send the three Toronto elephants to a sanctuary, zoo officials were battling to send Iringa, Toka, and Thika to another zoo. But last night the zoo voted to send the three elephants to PAWS.
Please click here to send a polite email to the Toronto Zoo thanking them for their compassionate decision to send Iringa, Toka and Thika to the PAWS sanctuary.
Written by PETA
Rock icon and
animal advocate Joan Jett's
version of "I Love
Rock 'n' Roll"
topped the charts, but one thing Joan doesn't love is the Edmonton Valley Zoo's
refusal to release its lone elephant, Lucy, to a sanctuary. Ahead of her
performance in Alberta on Saturday, Joan sent a letter to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel
and the zoo's director, Denise Prefontaine, reminding them that every moment that
Lucy remains in Edmonton is a misery. Joan writes, "This animal is
basically being tortured. I urge you to please release Lucy to a sanctuary
before the unbearably cold Canadian winter weather returns this year."
should follow the lead of their colleagues in Toronto, who overwhelmingly voted by a 31-4 majority to send the zoo's three elephants to sanctuary.
agree that if elephants are not with others of their kind, these highly
intelligent and social animals experience psychological distress, and Lucy has
been the only elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo
for more than four years. The cold climate and confinement to a small barn have
also contributed to Lucy's poor health. She suffers from arthritis, obesity,
chronic foot ailments, and respiratory problems, all of which would likely
improve if she were able to join other elephants at a sanctuary
with a more appropriate climate and miles of open space to roam.
Please join Joan, Bob Barker,
PETA, Zoocheck, and the thousands of
compassionate Canadians who are campaigning for Lucy's freedom by clicking here to contact Mayor Mandel and the Edmonton
by Heather Faraid Drennan
Toka, Thika, and Iringa—the three elephants at the Toronto Zoo—will
soon be on their way to paradise. By a vote of 31 to 4, the
Toronto City Council overwhelmingly agreed that California's Performing Animal
Welfare Society (PAWS)
sanctuary is a much more appropriate home for these elephants. Earlier, there
had been a push to send the three to another zoo.
© Digital Vision | Just Elephants | Getty Images
PETA and our colleagues at Zoocheck Canada kept up the pressure,
writing to councilmembers and mobilizing Canadians to make their opinions
known. Now, these three elephants will know the joys of roaming freely,
swimming in ponds, taking dust baths, and socializing with other elephants.
PAWS has a history of healing and restoring quality of life to elephants who
have become debilitated from years in captivity.
TV icon and animal defender Bob Barker has offered to pay for the elephants' relocation to the sanctuary at a cost
estimated to be between
$100,000 and $300,000.
As an unrelated bonus, the City Council received a standing
ovation when it also voted to ban
the possession, sale, and consumption of shark fins,
with hefty fines for violators.
Now, it's Lucy's
turn. Please click here to ask Edmonton
to follow their Toronto colleagues' lead and send this ailing and lonely
elephant to PAWS, and click here to
urge the Toronto Zoo and City Council to send Iringa, Toka, and Thika to the sanctuary without delay.
by Jennifer O'Connor
In a hard-hitting interview with Canada's CTV network, the ever-eloquent Bob Barker blasts the Edmonton Valley Zoo and city officials for refusing to transfer Lucy, the zoo's ailing and aging elephant, to a sanctuary. Lucy will spend most of the next six frigid Alberta months alone inside a barren barn with nothing to do but sway and dream of the life that she was meant to have.
Bob, pulling no punches, calls Lucy's living conditions "really just one of the worst cases that I know of" and says that he is "appalled at the misery that Lucy has suffered there in Edmonton at the Valley Zoo." Watch here to see Bob take Edmonton and zoo officials to task.
Both Bob and former NHL powerhouse Georges Laraque have offered to make a $100,000 donation to the city to get the transfer underway, and earlier this year, comedian Steve-O led a PETA protest outside the zoo. Canadian William Shatner appealed directly to the mayor to do the right thing for Lucy. But so far, officials have refused to budge.
We're pushing full speed ahead to get Lucy's case heard in Canada's Supreme Court, but in the meantime, please e-mail polite notes to Edmonton's mayor and city council and beg them to move Lucy before winter sets in.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
Represented by renowned attorney Clayton Ruby, PETA, Zoocheck Canada, and Tove
Reece, president of the Edmonton-based Voice for Animals Humane Society, have
asked the Supreme Court of Canada to allow a lawsuit against the city of
Edmonton to force Lucy's transfer.
The following was originally posted September 8, 2011
by an Alberta Court of Appeal judge's lengthy dissenting opinion in favor of hearing
our lawsuit regarding what we believe are abusive and illegal living conditions
for Lucy, the lone elephant at
Edmonton Valley Zoo, PETA and Zoocheck Canada will ask the Supreme Court of
Canada to hear her case.
her opinion, which took up more than three-fourths of the entire ruling, Chief
Justice Catherine Fraser wrote that PETA and Zoocheck Canada have shown "a
prima facie case of the City's unlawful conduct vis-à-vis Lucy."
has been in solitary confinement for more than three years and, not
surprisingly, is showing signs of "zoochosis," including pacing and
that indicate severe psychological distress. She also suffers from arthritis,
obesity, chronic foot ailments, and upper respiratory problems—all of which are
aggravated by Edmonton's frigid climate and the fact that Lucy, who is native
to Asia's tropical jungles, must spend most of the year confined to a barn. Recent zoo records indicate that Lucy is more
obese than ever, despite supposedly getting more exercise during the
to the zoo's claims, elephant experts consulted by PETA and Zoocheck Canada who
have seen Lucy and her medical records say that there is no reason to believe
that she cannot be moved safely to a sanctuary in a more temperate climate.
Indeed, they say that her health will continue to decline if she is not moved.
help by sending a polite e-mail to the Edmonton City Council
asking members to free Lucy before she has to face yet another winter confined
to a dark, depressing barn.
Written by Alisa Mullins
There's no justice for Lucy—yet. Despite what PETA and Zoocheck Canada described to an appellate court as blatant violations of Alberta's Animal Protection Act by the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the court today refused to give Lucy her day in court. But in a groundbreaking dissenting opinion that takes up 45 pages of the 56-page ruling, Chief Justice Catherine Fraser found that PETA and Zoocheck showed "a prima facie case of the City's unlawful conduct vis-à-vis Lucy," and they deserve their day in court.
Lucy has lived for years in what Chief Justice Fraser calls "solitary isolation" at the zoo. She is suffering from severe psychological distress as well as upper-respiratory problems, arthritis, obesity, and chronic foot ailments.
Undeterred by today's decision, PETA and Zoocheck will continue to fight for Lucy and are weighing all of our options in light of today's ruling. You can help by sending a polite e-mail to Edmonton City Council asking them to free Lucy before Canada's long winter sets in, during which time she will be relegated to a cramped, dismal barn.
Written by Michelle Sherrow
I've got some great news and some not-so-great news. The great news is that the Toronto Zoo has heeded the call of animal defenders, including Bob Barker, and decided to close its elephant display, joining more than a dozen other zoos that have done the same thing. What's more, the Toronto Zoo has agreed that it will not send Toka, Iringa and Thika to any facility that uses bullhooks.
The not-so-great news is that instead of sending the elephants to the spacious comfort of a sanctuary, the zoo seems intent on sending them to another zoo. The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California is willing and able to immediately provide these elephants with the many acres of natural habitat that they need to thrive, warmer weather, and the companionship of other elephants. Toka, Iringa, and Thika deserve no less, and we're appealing to the zoo to send them to PAWS.
Another Canadian elephant in desperate need of retirement is Lucy, who spends her days alone in Edmonton's Valley Zoo. Please ask city officials to send Lucy south.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
Backing up his beliefs with bucks, animal activist Bob Barker has offered the City of Edmonton $100,000—to use however it wants—if it will allow independent elephant experts to assess Lucy, the sick and depressed elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
e_tavares/cc by 2.0
Lucy has trouble breathing because of an undiagnosed ailment. She also suffers from arthritis and chronic foot problems—the leading causes of death in captive elephants. Once Lucy is diagnosed and treated, the zoo will have no excuses left to avoid moving her to a sanctuary, where she'd enjoy the company of other elephants and have open, grassy meadows in which to walk, smell the roses, and heal.
Calling his offer a "win-win-win scenario," Bob says, "It's crucial that Lucy's condition be accurately diagnosed before her health deteriorates further. It is indefensible that Lucy has been forced to live in misery for all these years."
In other Lucy news, the appeal of PETA and Zoocheck Canada's lawsuit against the zoo is scheduled to be heard March 29. Watch for updates.
In the meantime, please implore Edmonton officials not to let Lucy become the next Knut.
… to sunny California. Not content with campaigning to get an ailing elephant named Lucy out of Edmonton's Valley Zoo, the tireless Bob Barker is now speaking out on behalf of Toka, Iringa, and Thika, the three elephants at the Toronto Zoo. Bob joins Toronto City Councilor Shelley Carroll, who is calling for the elephant trio to be moved to the more appropriate climate of a California sanctuary without delay—and for good reason. Seven elephants have died at the Toronto Zoo, none of old age. Some suffered and died from severe arthritis—one of the main reasons that captive elephants are euthanized—and joint disease.
Two of the elephants at the Toronto Zoo. loozrboy/cc by 2.0
As Bob eloquently points out, the California sanctuary offers elephants "acres and acres of land. They have a mud hole; elephants love to play in the mud. They have a pool; some of them stay underwater practically the whole summer. And there are elephants for them to socialize with. Elephants come in that have been mistreated and been lonely and depressed, and they just blossom. It's wonderful to behold."
Recognizing that elephants fare very poorly in captivity, progressive zoos all over North America have retired their elephants to sanctuaries.
Please let the Toronto councilors know that you support moving Toka, Iringa, and Thika to a home where they can thrive.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.