Toronto Zoo keepers fight move to send elephants to Calif.

The elephant keepers at the Toronto Zoo want council to revoke its decision to send elephants to a California sanctuary.
Toronto Zoo elephant keepers were not consulted about where to send the elephants and are now petitioning to have their say before the big move. (Grahm S. Jones/Associated Press)

The elephant keepers at the Toronto Zoo want city council to revoke its decision to send the zoo's elephants to a California sanctuary.

Vernon Presley, chief elephant keeper at the zoo, has worked there for over 16 years. He said now that the elephants: Toka, Inringa and Thika are being moved he would like to have his say in where they go.

Presley has started a petition calling on council to reverse the decision to move the elephants to the sanctuary.

"We made a promise to find the best place for these elephants and what's happened is that the city council has taken the opportunity away from us to fulfill that promise," Presley said.

City council has decided to send the elephants to the 931– hectare Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary (PAWS) in St. Andreas, Calif.

The zoo has been under pressure from animal rights activists to make the move, partly because the aging animals aren't well-adapted to cold weather, and the concrete floor of their enclosure is hard on their feet.

City Councilor Michelle Berardinetti made the recommendation without consulting the elephant keepers, but said it was all done for the benefit of the animals.

Berardinetti said if the keepers are so concerned "why weren't they out advocating for the elephants many years ago?"