Wednesday, October 26, 2011

City Council Votes to Send Elephants Away

Following on the heels of an earlier Zoo Board decision to shut down the elephant exhibit at the Toronto Zoo, Toronto’s City Council voted last night 31-4 to move the three remaining elephants to the PAWS Sanctuary in California (rather than another zoo).

No more elephants at the Toronto Zoo
Will you remember us?

Following the original Zoo Board decision, it was thought that the process of moving the magnificent beasts might take as long as a few years, but evidently it has been deemed a priority.

As I’ve previously written, I support this decision reluctantly.

Seeing wild animals directly, in the flesh, is a captivating, pleasurable, informative experience that pulls us out of our narrow urban awareness. It has the potential to awake our wonder at the natural world.

At the same time it’s almost certainly a positive decision for the future health of the elephants, as they will be moved to a location with a better climate and infrastructure. It was evident that the animals were suffering here (a consideration that has historically not always been viewed as important).

The loss of the elephants also raises broader questions regarding the future of the Zoo in Toronto. The elephants were a signature exhibition at the facility and always immensely popular, for obvious reasons. Do zoos still have a place in a modern world? Has their mission of conservancy and education been made obsolete?

Given our Zoo’s recent past of troubling management and fundraising issues, will this prove to be the first step towards the eventual shutting down or selling off the entire zoo? (Council has already voted to explore searching for third parties that might “purchase, lease or operate” the zoo.)

We shall see in years to come.

Goodbye Thika, Toka and Iringa! Thank you for your time with us. We’ll miss you.

Further reading
No More Elephants at the Toronto Zoo
What the Elephants Know (Toronto Life)

Apparently the decision to select PAWS hasn’t been received well by the current zookeepers: Toronto Star-- Zoo Keepers Fuming over Vote
Dec: The issue still hasn’t been resolved: Councillors Blast Zoo over Elephant Move
April 2012: Toronto Zoo loses its accreditation over this decision
May 2012: Elephants here to stay for now
Oct 2012: Council could make a new elephant decision in next month
Nov 2012: Toronto Council votes to send elephants to California -- again
Jan 2013: Elephant Tug of War: The Story of the Toronto Zoo transfer