Celebrity Bob Barker phoned Performing Animal Welfare Society Director Pat Derby on Saturday to inform her that he would foot the bill to relocate three Toronto Zoo African elephants to ARK 2000 in Galt.
"I do not want the transition of the elephants to be hampered in any way," Barker said in a statement posted on PAWS' website. "I want them to have the most efficient and humane transition to their new home, and I thank (Toronto) Councilors Michelle Berardinetti, Raymond Cho and Glenn DeBaeremaeker as well as Mayor Rob Ford and the rest of the Toronto City Council for their diligent efforts on behalf of the elephants."
Barker added, "I said this would not cost the city a penny, and I want to assure them it won't."
The Toronto Zoo board voted last month to go along with the city council's October decision to send the trio of aging female elephants to PAWS. The move has been challenged by zookeepers because PAWS is not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Maryland-based organization that certifies hundreds of zoos in North America.
PAWS founders have said they do not agree with all of AZA's beliefs, thus they are not sanctioned by the organization.
The AZA had threatened to withdraw Toronto's accreditation in large part because it believes the "experts" — keepers and managers at the zoo — are best positioned to decide the fate of the animals, not city council members, according to news reports.
In the spring, when the zoo board voted to close down the elephant exhibit, staff were instructed to first look for an AZA-accredited facility for the animals. Only after that option was exhausted was a sanctuary supposed to be on the table.
But in October, when zoo staff still hadn't announced where the trio was going, the city council stepped in, the Toronto Star News reported.
The elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa, are expected to be flown here by the end of April.
Both PAWS and ZooCheck Canada will continue their campaigns to raise funds for lifetime care for the elephants once they arrive at PAWS. To donate to the elephants' ongoing care, visit www.pawsweb.org/donate_online.html.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.