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Air Force to Give Captive Elephants a Lift

Written by Michelle Kretzer | April 1, 2013

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.

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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.

Commenting is closed.
  • Dan and Gloria Gunderson says:

    God Bless Bob Barker, PETA, PAWS and all those who work so selflessly for animals! You have done so much for our beloved animals, our best friends. I cannot express my joy in the victory for these beloved elephants who will be moving to the PAWS Sanctuary. I am praying for Lucy to be moving next!! Thank you, thank you!

  • Michelle Wedlake says:

    Thanks to Bob Barker who is using his name to bring attention to Lucy’s needs.

  • winona says:

    when we take animals out of their natural environments we are responsible for making sure their quality of life is not compromised. Leaving any living thing in a barn all by themselves all winter long is abusive and mean-hearted, and causes tremendous stress and health issues. The law & justice should be standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, but instead it is a moral issue which leaves the vulnerable defenseless. Have pity for goodness sakes!

  • Melanie Trzinka says:

    It makes me sad to see those gentle animals suffer. Animals do NOT belong to zoos.

  • Rita says:

    Please give Lucy the peaceful retirement that she so deserves.

  • joe says:

    This is wonderful heart-warming news, thanks to Bob Barker, thank you Bob, and PETA.

  • Jean Dieter says:

    Free Lucy!

  • Betti-Lou Maus says:

    Please transfer Lucy to PAWS where she can have a happier life and be so much more comfortable. Pleas close the elephant exhibit. Thanking you in advance. Betti-Lou Maus

  • karen lyons kalmenson says:

    elephants, so gentle in their largesse, need to be safe from manunkind and his mess!

  • Mr. David says:

    Animals are our neighbors, our friends, and our fellow Earthlings. They are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other purpose. Animals deserve our consideration whether or not they are cute, useful to humans, or endangered and whether or not anyone else cares about them at all. Read more about animal rights.

  • Marsha says:

    Elephants are my favorite animal and I am so happy that these three elephants are going to that wonderful PAWS sanctuary. God bless Bob Barker and the others for making this happen and I hope Lucy can join them soon.

  • PurpleGrape says:

    Sent an email to both the Edmonton Mayor and the Council as well as sent a tweet. I was sent another ‘tweet’ almost immediately from @CityofEdmonton in response to my post. They provided a link and told me to “get the facts about Lucy”. I don’t understand why they are trying SO HARD to keep Lucy in their pitiful zoo. It’s mind boggling. Lucy really deserve to life out the rest of her life with other elephants and a place that provides a somewhat warmer climate. There’s a reason you don’t find elephants in Canada!

  • Courtney Walsh says:

    this makes me happy beyond belief.

  • lisa says:

    If Bob barker hasd a plane why wast’nt Lucy allowed on ???? so she has to try to live threough the harsh winter with no friends shame on you all””

  • Lisa says:

    you dont make it clear as to why lucy as been left, is it because they think she has tuberculosis or foot ailment??? why did the other elphants leave and she was left???