Toronto Zoo elephants going to PAWS sanctuary
in California

On October 25, 2011, City of Toronto Council voted 31 to 4 in favour of retiring the Toronto Zoo’s three surviving elephants, Iringa, Toka and Thika, to the PAWS sanctuary in California.


The motion to send the elephants to PAWS was introduced by Councillor Michelle Berardinetti and seconded by Councillor Raymond Cho. Many other Councillors spoke in favour of the motion and they are all to be congratulated.


While the Toronto Zoo had proposed sending the elephants to an American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) accredited facility, Council decided the more appropriate and compassionate choice for the elephants was the PAWS sanctuary.


The move to PAWS has been endorsed by many of the world’s leading elephant experts, including Dr. Joyce Poole,  Dr. Cynthia Moss, Winnie Kiiru and Dr. Keith Lindsay, to name just a few. In addition, animal welfare and wildlife protection organizations endorse the move.


A poll conducted by the professional polling firm R.A. Malatest and Associates Ltd. shows that Torontonians overwhelmingly support moving the Toronto Zoo’s three elephants to a sanctuary.


Here’s why the PAWS sanctuary is the correct choice for the Toronto Zoo elephants:


  • an 80 acre (323,748 m²) African elephant enclosure (647 times larger than the AZA minimum standard of 5,400 ft² [500 m²] adult elephant),
  • natural terrain with hills, other features and pasture for grazing throughout the year,
  • water pools for complete submersion and swimming,
  • 20,000 ft² (1,858 m²) “state of the art” elephant barn with rubberized flooring and heated stalls, 
  • other African elephants to socialize with,
  • an elephant friendly climate,
  • world class veterinary care,
  • 24 hour monitoring of elephants and staff that live on the grounds, 
  • highly skilled elephant caretakers with a solid track record of successfully moving old, injured and/or ill elephants.


Toronto Zoo elephants to be moved
At the May 12, 2011 meeting of the Toronto Zoo Board of Management, the Board voted to end the Toronto Zoo elephant program. A number of resolutions were approved, including the following:


  • The Toronto Zoo phase out the current Elephant Program.
  • The Board of Management reassess at a future date its options for an Elephant Program, pending the IMLS results, financial considerations, and any other relevant factors.
  • The 2012-2021 Capital Works Program include a placeholder in the amount of $16.5 million (2010$) as funding for the Board's future option for the Elephant Program.
  • The existing three elephants be transferred as soon as practical to an accredited AZA institution(s): with enhanced facilities comparable to the Toronto Zoo; that have eliminated the use of bull-hooks or other similar practices not used at the Toronto Zoo; and with animal management programs.
  • Staff report back, as part of the capital budget process:on the use of the elephant facilities by another species, in the interim; and the feasibility of constructing an Elephant Education Centre or Labyrinth Proposal, as outlined by Zoocheck Canada.
  • Staff report back on a comprehensive marketing and sponsorship plan for the Elephant Program that recognizes the opportunity presented by the exhibit as a limited time only attraction.
  • Toronto Zoo staff meet with Mr. Ed Stewart of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) to provide him with a tour of the Toronto Zoo's elephant facilities.
  • The Toronto Zoo's Animal Care and Research Committee be requested to report back to the Board of Management concerning the Toronto Zoo elephants' destination.
  • The Chief Executive Officer be requested to ensure that the options presented at the May 12, 2011 meeting of the Board be considered as part of the Toronto Zoo's accepted processes and policies for Toronto Zoo animal transactions.

Toronto Zoo Elephant Images