Tuesday, 10 May 2011

3 Minutes to Help 3 Elephants!

From Zoocheck Canada


Please get involved & voice your opinion ASAP!

On May 12, 2011, the Toronto Zoo Board of Management will be considering the future of elephants at the Toronto Zoo.

In 2008, the Toronto Zoo conducted a feasibility study that looked at how their existing elephant exhibit could be upgraded and improved. In 2010, they hired a company called Lord Cultural Resources to look at other aspects of the elephant issue. The Lord study is complete and their report has been forwarded to the Zoo. It has not yet been released publicly.

It's no secret that Zoocheck Canada has been critical of keeping elephants in cold climates and that we think the Toronto Zoo elephants should be moved. But taking that position should not be seen as an attack on the Toronto Zoo. It's not. In actual fact, many zoo supporters, including the zoo's former Executive Director of Support Services, who accompanied the first shipment of Toronto Zoo elephants from Africa back in the 1980s, no longer believe Toronto is an appropriate place for elephants.

In a nutshell, here's why we think the elephants should be moved:

  • Toronto's climate is too cold, forcing the elephants indoors for significant periods of time;
  • The indoor elephant enclosure is outdated, small and needs refurbished;
  • The outdoor elephant yard is less than 1 hectare (2.4 acres) in size, devoid of pasture and other living vegetation and lacks significant structural enhancements and furnishings to keep the elephants mentally and physically stimulated;
  • Even if the outdoor exhibit was expanded, there is no way to mitigate the climate issue (there is some talk of heated stations in the exhibit, but these are a stopgap measure- the entire outdoor space should be elephant-friendly);
  • Out of 10 elephants at the Toronto Zoo, seven died before reaching old age (the two oldest were middle aged at 40, the youngest was just several days old);
  • Records show the elephants have suffered from a variety of infections and are displaying abnormal stereotypic behaviours;
  • Expanding the exhibit (reportedly to just a few acres in size) will cost an estimated $40 million or more - funds the zoo does not have;
  • According to a 2010 study conducted by Zoocheck, visitors spend less than 2 minutes looking at the elephants (a result similar to studies in other zoos), too short a time for any positive educational impact;
  • Other urban zoos that have phased out their elephant displays did not experience a downturn in visitor numbers, and some actually experienced an increase (a Toronto Zoo visitor survey said 85% of people would return to the zoo if there were no elephants);
  • The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and other zoo and elephant organizations all agree there is no need or intention to breed elephants for reintroduction to the wild, as this will not address the problems that wild elephant populations face;
  • The Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary in northern California has offered the elephants a permanent home, with hundreds of acres to roam, at no cost to the Toronto Zoo.  
It seems the Toronto Zoo has three options:

1) Keep elephants and spend millions of dollars upgrading their existing exhibit and, at some point, expanding it (estimated at upwards of $40 million - funds they do not have);

2) Relocate the elephants to a more elephant-friendly facility in a warmer climate and use the vacated space to expand and enhance the living situation for other species in the Africa section of the zoo;

3) Relocate the elephants and replace with an interactive, high technology Elephant Learning Center, a stand alone facility of displays, actitivies and experiences for both kids and adults.
Zoocheck Canada is pushing Option 3. We believe that by following through on it the Toronto Zoo has an opportunity to move forward in an exciting new direction that will not only be good for the zoo and the animals, it will better fulfill the zoo's educational mandate and save money at the same time. To see our proposal for an alternative display called the ELEPHANT LAByrinth, visit http://www.elephantsincanada.com/
Please take a few minutes to get involved by politely expressing your opinion about the future of elephants at the Toronto Zoo. Now is the time for your voice to be heard. Please send your opinion and comments to:

Toronto Zoo Board of Management
c/o Dela Ting
City Clerk's Office
Toronto City Hall
2nd Floor, 100 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2N2
Fax: (416) 392-1879 / Email: dting@toronto.ca
Please send Zoocheck a copy as well. We'd like to know your views.

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