From Canada to California- Council Members Vote to Send Captive Elephants to Sanctuary

CAPS was pleased to hear in recent days that three elephants currently living in a Toronto zoo will be allowed to live out their days in peace at the PAWS sanctuary in California.

Toka, Thika and Inringam will join nine other elephants at the sanctuary, which offers 50 hectares overall and a Jacuzzi pool for those animals with arthritis. Of course, no sanctuary can offer what the three would have experienced in the wild, but it is a great improvement and we are delighted at the news.

It’s likely they’ll experience warmer climate and be able to take part in more socialising. PAWS co-founder and co-director Pat Derby says: “We have the space and one of the best elephant facilities in this country, probably the world’’

Zoo board members very vocally disagreed when Toronto City Council overruled them in the decision to make the move last month.  Board members stated that council members were ‘’not qualified to make a decision on what’s best for these elephants,’’ and became defensive over the way in which the zoo might be regarded by the public. However, a mutual agreement has finally been met, and the elephants will soon be on their way.

With steps forward in Canada, it is disappointing that here in the UK, there are zoos planning to introduce more elephants into a life of captivity and captive breeding. Experts, including the RSPCA and other leading groups, have called for an end to elephant exhibits in this country for many years due to scientific research highlighting intrinsic welfare problems for captive elephants.

It’s widely known that elephants are a huge draw for paying visitors but in captivity they have only half the average life expectancy, and have restricted movement in small enclosures, which can’t even compare to the 20 miles per day they would usually walk. They are also prone to lameness, obesity and stereotypic behaviour.

Earlier this year the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm made plans to set up an elephant exhibit of its own, but this was deemed ‘highly irresponsible’ by the RSPCA. Not only did the Zoo plan to breed captive elephants, which flies in the face of their claims of creating a “sanctuary” but was also previously exposed by CAPS for breeding tigers to be used in the Great British Circus. As a direct result of the CAPS exposé, NAZF lost its membership with trade body BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).

The Canadian City Council of Toronto, thankfully, seems to have the right approach to the problem which still reigns in many zoos all over Britain today.  Elephants should not be held behind bars, and we would do well to follow their example.

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