Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thanks for nothing, Bob Barker

I'm sure Bob Barker's heart is in the right place. I'm sure he truly believes that he's doing the best thing for the aged elephants at the Toronto Zoo. Heck, he's even offered to pay out of his own pocket to have them flown to California after the Zoo's elephant keepers said they didn't think the three ladies would survive the long trip if they went by truck. And it's not his fault that the merry band of nincompoops at Toronto City Council put more stock in the "wisdom" of an octogenarian ex-game show host than in the professional expertise of the elephant keepers themselves.

But today Toronto Council's decision to move the elephants to an unaccredited sanctuary in California has resulted in the Zoo losing its AZA accreditation for at least the next year. This could pose a serious problem to the many wonderful and important breeding programs at the Toronto Zoo; hopefully they will regain their AZA standing (which they've maintained since 1977) next spring and things will return to normal.

In the meantime, this never should have been allowed to happen. The Toronto Zoo is operated by the City of Toronto which is why Counc. Michelle Berardinetti thought they had carte blanche to make any decision they saw fit regarding the welfare of the animals residing there, which is an absolutely egregious abuse of power in my opinion. Counc. Paul Ainslie would appear to agree with me, stating "if we’re going to start directing our [zoo], which has a properly directed board with a mandate to manage the zoo, why have a board of directors at the zoo? Why not just let the city of Toronto look after it? It’s a very dangerous way to be looking after a city, let alone animals in a zoo." (From cbc.ca 10/26/11)

That aforementioned Zoo Board had already taken the preliminary steps, with no help from Toronto Council, toward transferring the three elephants "to one or more accredited AZA institutions...as soon as practical." Now, the Performing Animal Welfare Society may well run some top-notch sanctuaries, but they are not AZA accredited and this was a major stumbling block for the Toronto Zoo. In the first place, the Zoo's elephants are not "performing animals". They have spent their lives in zoos and are used to (and likely require) a certain level of care at their advanced ages. The keeper I spoke to at the Zoo in February said that a big concern they have about the move to a wide-open sanctuary is the potential for one of the huge creatures to fall or become injured and not be found until it was too late. Some people feel this is "natural selection"; however, if the argument is being made that the sanctuary is the best place for the elephants then I would submit that the "natural selection" argument really doesn't apply in this case.

Was a PAWS sanctuary the best place for these elephants to go? The keepers feel the answer is "no", as I mentioned, but the real disgrace is that council voted on this issue, as Counc. John Parker pointed out, without performing any kind of study whatsoever on the pros and cons of this sanctuary vs. an accredited zoo. According to the Globe and Mail in May of 2011, even Zoo Board chairman Joe Torzsok acknowledged that they did not rule out a sanctuary immediately but wanted to look at all the angles before reaching an informed decision. Clearly an AZA-accredited zoo was the first choice of the people who should have been charged with making that decision from a position of knowledge and expertise. Instead, the Toronto Zoo has lost its own accreditation because the elephants' fate was decided by a bunch of politicians who may or may not ever have visited the Zoo themselves in the first place.

And, of course, this man.


Which, despite his best intentions, just doesn't sit right with me.

*****UPDATE April 20th*****

The Toronto Star stole my title for their headline. That's kind of cool!

8 comments:

  1. Great post - it really is such a sad day for the zoo. Maybe the public will sit up and take notice once some of the great animals we have on loan have to be shipped back to their home zoos, and we don't get pandas visiting due to this fiasco.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you heard any news about that yet? Is that likely to happen?

      This city can barely run itself. Why they think they should be smarter than the Zoo experts just boggles my mind. This is so infuriating, because it was completely avoidable.

      Delete
  2. this happened because PAWS sanctuary has tuberculosis. This issue has been presented to zoo board for the last 4 months to no avail, its a cover up. emails listed at Zoo News Digest blog came out two says before AZA made its decision public, the emails between PAWS vet and California State Health Dept/TB Dept clearly state that the source elephant died (Rebecca) and that 3 other animals were infected, thats called an outbreak so their world class protocols failed . The AZA is fully aware of the TB issue and that City Hall planned to send the elephants anyway do you support that? Is that animal welfare? PAWS has refused to send the medical documents as per their legal agreement with the city, the documents that could confirm or deny TB. WHY? because they have TB and dont want it made public for fear of losing out on other zoo elephants obviously. We have been trying to stop this transfer because of the tuberculosis but the media fears liable if they report and city councillors dont care they just want to unload these animals at the most minimal cost to the city. But now the emails speak for themselves, PAWS has TB and someone either the sanctuary or city council or both lied to the people of Toronto by not sharing this with us. You can get more info on FB zoos matter and concerned elephant keepers. This is a heartbreak they will send these elephants if we cannot get this message to the public. the media fears the story for fear of liable but these emails are concrete proof. Join us support our cause please call city hall and support the groups. cheers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who is "we"? I don't know what your cause is. Perhaps you can shed more light on that. I understand your frustration but I found your comment a little difficult to follow, sorry.

      Can you direct me to a page for your cause?

      Delete
    2. Check out "Concerned Elephant Keepers"on Facebook for more info :)

      Delete
    3. I didn't see your comment right away; sorry about that. I read it tonight, finally, and just joined that Facebook group. Thanks for steering me to it!

      Delete
  3. Maybe one of those concerned councillors will motion to have this heard again and done right this time. Michelle was so far out of her league and continues to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be terrific, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, it passed by such a wide margin in the first place that it would be difficult to get the support behind reversing this decision.

      I almost wonder if it wouldn't be better to try to hold off sending the elephants anywhere until the Zoo has been privatized, whenever that may be.

      Delete

I've kept my comments open and moderation-free for many years, but I've been forced to now review them before they post due to the actions of one member of my family. I apologize for having to take this stance, but that's the way the world is headed, sad to say. Thank you for your understanding.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...