Bob Barker comes to town to remind us that Toronto is “too cold” for the elephants at its zoo
Former Price is Right host and noted animal rights activist Bob Barker has a new bevy of beauties on his mind: the elephants at the Toronto Zoo. The Toronto Star reports that the 88-year-old celeb is in town this week to encourage officials to shut down the zoo’s elephant enclosure and let the three surviving elephants live out their lives at a northern California sanctuary. The zoo currently houses three female African elephants—Thika, Toka and Iringa—and has taken nothing off the table in its discussions of what to do with them in the coming years.
Barker told press this morning that Toronto is too cold and the enclosures are too small for the pachyderms to remain healthy and happy. Concern for Toronto elephants is not new—a Toronto Life feature from the July 2010 issue reported that there have been four elephant deaths at the zoo in the past five years. The comments, overwhelmingly, were pro-sanctuary.
Barker cites arthritis as a particular issue for the tusked giants, while other health problems, such as herpes, tuberculosis and foot disease from the cement floors, are also alarmingly common. At the Toronto Zoo, elephants spend summer days ambling around the outdoor exhibit, but during the winter, they’re kept in metal-gated cement pens no bigger than 400 square feet.
Barker’s campaign is supported by animal rights group Zoocheck and the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which runs the sanctuary in question. It occupies 930 hectares of open space and offers its eight elephant residents—transfers from various zoos and circuses—amenities such as a mud hole and a pond. Barker is even willing to put his money where his mouth is, vowing to kick in cash to help cover the elephants’ travel costs—estimated at less than $100,000. He has already spent $1.5 million on transferring other elephants from zoo environments.
Last summer, the Toronto Zoo retained Lord Cultural Resources and Schultz and Williams to review its elephant program and report on such issues as the elephants’ health and well-being, conservation and educational commitments, transition costs and funding. A discussion of the results is scheduled for a Toronto Zoo board meeting on May 12.