Toronto Zoo elephants arrive at California sanctuary
Published Sunday, October 20, 2013 1:05PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 20, 2013 11:14PM EDT
Three aging Toronto Zoo elephants have arrived at their new California home after a long journey.
Toka, Thika and Iringa left Toronto Thursday night for the Performing Animals Welfare Society sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. The trio of pachyderms arrived at PAWS just after 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
The elephants left the Toronto Zoo after long delays that saw the animals parked in two-by-four metre crates for hours.
Former TV game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker, who lobbied for years to send the elephants down south, said the zoo was "uncooperative" with the move.
"The biggest difficulty for us in organizing this move was the Toronto Zoo. The zoo found every possible obstacle to put in the way of PAWS," Barker told CTV News Channel on Sunday in a telephone interview.
"The zoo has been totally uncooperative."
Toronto city council voted to send Toka, Thika and Iringa to the PAWS sanctuary in 2011, after animal rights' advocates raised concerns over the well-being of the aging elephants in Toronto's cold climate.
The move was delayed several times as officials debated on how to transport the pachyderms.
Last September, a PAWS representative accused the Toronto Zoo of trying to stall the deal to move the elephants. Zoo officials said they would only sign off on the deal after "several serious concerns" were addressed, including those related to the risk of infectious disease at the U.S. facility.
After the elephants crossed the Canada-U.S. border on Friday, Toronto Zoo spokesperson Jennifer Tracey said that they were doing well.
"We are extremely proud of the Toronto Zoo staff who have been so dedicated and committed to these three animals over the years, but particularly for their professionalism throughout the load process which was also a very emotional time," a release from the Toronto Zoo said Friday.
Barker, who donated $700,000 to cover the elephants' transfer, said the elephants' new home will allow them to “live the life that nature intended for them.
"There will trees for them to tear up – they love to tear up tress – and there is a big mud hole for them to play in."
California-based Active Environments -- the company hired to transport the elephants -- has allowed two zookeepers to accompany the pachyderms on the 50-hour journey.