Toronto Zoo elephants arrive at California sanctuary

Three Toronto Zoo elephants have arrived late Sunday at their new home at a California sanctuary after spending three days on the road.

Tora, Thika and Iringa left Toronto Zoo Thursday night, arrived at PAWS Sunday afternoon

The journey begins

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

Three elephants that previously lived at the Toronto Zoo arrived at their new home at a California sanctuary Sunday afternoon after spending three days on the road.

The first flatbed truck carrying Toka and Iringa in their crates arrived at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Sanctuary at 5:30 p.m. local time.

The truck carrying the third elephant, Thika, arrived afterwards.

It took almost an hour to unload Thikia, who seemed a bit reluctant, from her crate.

The three elephants have been on the road since leaving the Toronto Zoo Thursday night.

Earlier, the convoy carrying the trio crossed over from Nevada into California at about 2:30 p.m. local time.

CBC's current affairs program the fifth estate is following the convoy of trucks carrying Thika, Toka and Iringa and has been sending live updates throughout the trip.

The pachyderm parade had a minor incident Friday night 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 reported earlier that the animals were eating a lot of hay, drinking water and getting some sleep.

Fifth estate producer Lynette Fortune was interviewed Friday on CBC News Network and said the elephants were 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 coming soon on the fifth estate.

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 were "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 showed the team of handlers installing panels on the elephants' transport trailers to keep them warm during the trip.

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

One of the elephants pokes her trunk out. They are expected to arrive late in the afternoon, Pacific time, at their new home - a sanctuary in California. (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.

Once at PAWS sanctuary, the trio will join eight other elephants. Three of them are female African elephants named Maggie, Lulu and Mara.


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