Former Toronto Zoo elephants adjust to life in California

The last three elephants that lived at the Toronto Zoo are doing well in their new home, staff at a California sanctuary say.

Thika, Toka and Iringa said to be doing well after arriving at U.S. sanctuary

The last three elephants that lived at the Toronto Zoo are doing well in their new home, staff at a California sanctuary say.

Thika, Toka and Iringa were boarded onto trucks in Toronto last Thursday, before making their long journey through nine states to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif., where they arrived on Sunday.

Ed Stewart, the president and co-founder of PAWS, said the Toronto pachyderms are still undergoing medical examinations and are getting used to their new surroundings, including walking up and down hills, which they didn't have access to at the Toronto Zoo.

Watch the fifth estate documentary

CBC-TV's the fifth estate will air a full documentary on Friday about the Toronto Zoo elephants' trek. Click here for a sneak preview.

Stewart said the animals have to build up their muscles, and have been grazing non-stop. All three are in the same enclosure and have yet to be introduced to the three other African elephants living at the facility.

It's not clear how long it will take until all six elephants can live together in the same enclosure.

"We're on elephant time right now," Stewart said.

"Every once in a while I look out and think, 'my god they're actually here,'" he added. "It's a relief that the move is over and everything is finished."

CBC's current affairs program the fifth estate had exclusive access to the convoy's entire journey, sending live updates throughout the trip to a blog.

The fifth estate producer Lynette Fortune told CBC News on Monday that the elephants' safe arrival brought a wave of relief to members of their transport team.

Two elephants from the Toronto Zoo stand in their new enclosure at the PAWS sanctuary in California. (CBC)

"People were joyful, it was like a huge weight was lifted from their shoulders," she said. "When we pulled into PAWS, it was like, 'Finally, the journey is over.' They were laughing and crying and embracing each other. It was something to see."

A handful of people had gathered at the entrance to the sanctuary, located about 130 kilometres southeast of Sacramento, to greet the elephants as they arrived.

Also there for the arrival was Bob Barker, the former game show host and animal rights activist who covered the cost of the journey.

Barker heralded their safe arrival in California as "a wonderful day" for the elephants.

The elephants had lived in Toronto for decades. A series of squabbles involving zoo staff, city councillors and animal advocates delayed their departure.

The animals will now live out the rest of their lives in the warmer California climate.


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