Toronto Zoo’s three elephants begin journey to California

TORONTO – It’s moving day at last for the three remaining elephants at the Toronto Zoo.

Toronto city council voted in 2011 to send Toka, Thika and Iringa to the PAWS animal sanctuary in California after animal rights activists voiced concern for the welfare of the three aging elephants.

The move has been delayed several times due to disagreements over how they should be transported and whether the U.S. sanctuary is the best place for them.

A spokesman for the union representing the elephant’s keepers at the Toronto Zoo, says plans are being made to start the move this morning, as long as the animals co-operate.

Matt Berridge of CUPE Local 1600 says Active Environments — the group hired to move the elephants — told two zoo keepers who planned to go along that once they reach the U.S. border, they must sign a non-disclosure agreement to continue to California.

Berridge says the two zoo keepers have refused to sign the agreement, which would prevent them from revealing anything that might happen on the U.S. leg of the trip.

“This is an emotional process and going there and seeing them get there safely is the closure of this whole thing,” he says.

Active Environments could not be immediately reached for comment.

The journey by truck is expected to take about 50 hours, and national zoo watchdog Zoocheck Canada has said at least two veterinarians and six handlers would accompany the elephants.

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