Elephants photographed at the Toronto Zoo Still waiting to be shipped to California.
Credits: Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO -- An animal sanctuary in the U.S. is threatening to sue the Toronto Zoo over delays in the transfer of three of the zoo's aging elephants.
The Toronto Zoo has received a letter from lawyers representing the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), threatening legal action following an elephant-transfer report issued by senior zoo staff in late September detailing what they see as outstanding concerns with sending the elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa, to the PAWS facility in northern California.
The letter is the latest development in what has turned out to be a year-long drama over the fate of the three elephants.
City council's original decision last October to send them to PAWS proved to be controversial one, with some zoo staff voicing concerns over health conditions at the sanctuary. Zoo staff have reportedly voted to send the transfer report to Rob Ford's executive committee for review, which could mean the animals enduring another winter in Canada.
In late September, Toronto Zoo senior veterinarian Graham Crawshaw told the media he continues to be concerned about cases of tuberculosis at PAWS, and that the zoo would continue its duty to inspect the sanctuary. Officials with Zoocheck Canada, an animal rights group working with PAWS, countered by claiming that staff at the zoo have a bias toward PAWS.
It is believed that zoo staff would rather send the animals to an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited site.
The Toronto Zoo have claimed in the past that three of the eight elephants at the PAWS facility have tested positive for TB, and that since 2003, two elephants that have died at PAWS had tested positive for the disease. "The Toronto Zoo has been and remains committed to following ... directives for the safe and humane transfer of Toka, Thika and Iringa to the PAWS sanctuary in northern California," zoo officials said in the wake of the transfer report, adding that zoo staff are continuing to carry out obligations under the elephant-transfer agreement it has with PAWS.
There are also other areas of concern on the part of zoo staff, including permits, a transportation plan and crates and training.
The delay in sending the elephants to the PAWS site has attracted much-publicized attention form former game show host and animal lover Bob Barker, who put up $1 million toward the transfer of the animals. Barker, a PAWS supporter, reportedly called the zoo's behaviour in this matter "contemptible."
Comment from a Toronto Zoo spokesman was not immediately available.