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TORONTO, Ont. – The animal care professionals at the Toronto Zoo are expressing fears that continually changing plans to transfer the Zoo’s elephants to an animal sanctuary in California are not in the best interests of Iringa, Toka and Thika.

“It is our understanding that the Toronto Zoo Board will push through a land transfer plan at tomorrow’s Board of Management meeting,” said Christine McKenzie, president of Local 1600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 1600), which represents more than 400 animal care specialists, horticulturalists, trades people, maintenance, administration and public relations staff, concession and ride operators at Canada’s largest zoo.

“The Toronto Zoo and the Performing Animals Wildlife Sanctuary (PAWS) agreed an air transfer was in the animals’ best interests. Viable air alternatives are, in fact, available. The animal care professionals at the Toronto Zoo would like to know why the Zoo’s Board of Management is moving towards a transfer plan they acknowledge is not best for the elephants,” she added.

Documents prepared for the Board of Management reveal PAWS has failed to meet a number of obligations, including necessary US permits and documents, supply adequate transportation crates, a sound transportation plan, as well as the provision of medical information relating to PAWS’ existing elephant collection.

“Had this been handled from the onset by professionals, such as keepers and veterinarians as opposed to politicians and animal rights activists, the animals would have been safely moved by now,” said McKenzie.

“We don’t want them to go, but, if they have to, that trip should only be undertaken in a way that is safest for the elephants with a destination that is safe for them,” she added.

Following tomorrow’s 2:00 p.m. board meeting, McKenzie and CUPE 1600 Vice-President Matt Berridge will be available to speak to media outside Room 2 at Toronto City Hall.


For more information, please contact:

Christine McKenzie, CUPE 1600 President, 416-579-2873

Kevin Wilson, CUPE Communications, 416-821-6641