Toronto zoo elephant convoy headed deep into U.S. Midwest

Follow our exclusive coverage as CBC's the fifth estate accompanies the three elephants from the Toronto Zoo as they are transferred to a sanctuary in California.

Elephants had overnight stopover at 'World's Largest Truck Stop' in Iowa

3 elephants from the Toronto Zoo begin their long journey to a U.S. animal sanctuary. 3:30

Three Toronto Zoo elephants en route to their new home in California have passed Chicago and Nebraska and are now travelling through Wyoming.

The pachyderm parade had a minor incident overnight in Walcott, Iowa, at what's billed as The World's Largest Truck Stop. A police cruiser pulled up beside the convoy after someone had made a complaint the elephants' paperwork was not in order. However, officers assessed that was not true but still wanted to check out the elephants before heading away.

The team taking care of the elephants reports that they're eating a lot of hay, drinking water and getting some sleep.

CBC's current affairs program the fifth estate is following the convoy of trucks carrying Thika, Toka and Iringa to the PAWS Wildlife Sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif., andhas been sending live updates throughout the trip.

Producer Lynette Fortune was interviewed Friday on CBC News Network and said the elephants are travelling well.

Follow the elephants

Click here to follow along as the CBC's the fifth estate provides up-to-the-minute coverage of the elephants' journey south. Producer Lynette Fortune and a CBC cameraman are the only members of the media on the road with the elephants, sending updates and photos throughout the two-day trek until they reach the PAWS sanctuary. Watch the full documentary on the elephant trek on the fifth estate, Friday, Nov. 1.

Their convoy crossed the U.S. border early Friday after leaving the Toronto Zoo before 11 p.m. ET on Thursday.

"I don't think the border agents believed what they were seeing," she reported. "They got out their flashlights and looked at Iringa's foot and as the truck pulled away they said, 'Be careful with them.'"

Fortune reported that the elephants are "riding very well."

"The goal is to keep them warm and comfy during the journey," she said.

A fifth estate photo documenting the elephants' journey shows the team of handlers installing panels on the elephants' transport trailers to keep them warm during the trip, which is expected to take about 50 hours.

Several handlers and veterinarians are travelling with the pachyderms. One of the elephant experts told Fortune that these are the quietest elephants of the 18 she's ever moved. 

The elephants are being fed lots of hay. (CBC)

The team took multiple breaks along the highway on Friday to rest, feed and water the animals. The convoy had packed 54 bales of hay for the trip.

Toronto city council voted in 2011 to send the three aging elephants to the PAWS sanctuary after animal rights advocates voiced concern for their welfare.

A series of squabbles involving zoo staff, city councillors and animal advocates delayed their departure.

In the end, it was decided to move the elephants to a new home in a warmer climate.

For more than a year, trainers worked with the elephants to prepare them for their move, so that the pachyderms would feel comfortable in their crates when being transported.


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