San Andreas will soon have three new, gray, larger-than-life residents to welcome to the neighborhood.
Toka, Thika and Iringa are three African elephants that will soon call the 2,300-acre Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in San Andreas home, after they are transported from the Toronto Zoo in Ontario, Canada, in the coming weeks.
The three aging elephants, all more than 40 years old, are being moved from the zoo after the zoo’s council-appointed board, six councillors and eight citizen appointees, voted in May to close the popular elephant exhibit and seek a suitable Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facility for Toka, Thika and Iringa.
After the zoo’s council failed to do so within an agreed six-month period, the zoo began looking at non-accredited sanctuaries.
Tuesday night, the council voted overwhelmingly that the PAWS San Andreas sanctuary was the best spot for the elephants to live out their days in captivity.
The Toronto Zoo could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
“These ladies are old by our standards,” said sanctuary co-founder and treasurer Ed Stewart. “Elephants can live for roughly 55 years in the wild, and about 40 in captivity. If they get much older, then that is a really old elephant.”
But how the three African elephants will make the nearly 2,600-mile journey is still a mystery, said Stewart.
“We could transport them either by plane or by truck, and it’s a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “When you start a project like this, you switch over into elephant time. You can only go as fast as they will let you.”
According to PAWS sanctuary founder and president Pat Derby, despite the difficult travel arrangements, she could not be more excited to add to her already large family of exotic animals.
Derby said though it depends on the animal, most elephants are extremely social and that she hopes the three African elephants will have a smooth transition when they start living with the three other African elephants that already live in Derby’s sanctuary.
“It is going to take a lot of coordination between us and the zoo,” she said. “But we are planning things now and can’t wait to get (the elephants) out to California.”
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