Several Outstanding Items Remain Including Major Health Concerns Regarding the Transfer of the Toronto Zoo Elephants

TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2012 /CNW/ - Today, John Tracogna, CEO and Dr. Graham Crawshaw, Senior Veterinarian at the Toronto Zoo provided an update to the Toronto Zoo Board of Management on the elephant move of Iringa, Toka, and Thika, to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Sanctuary in Northern California.

"There are a number of complexities involved with transferring three elephants over an international border, and the associated technical elements that a privately owned/operated sanctuary and a public institution (Toronto Zoo) need to coordinate as part of due diligence,"  said John Tracogna, CEO, Toronto Zoo.

While much progress has been made on the move to date, the delays in the safe and humane transfer of Iringa, Toka, and Thika can be primarily attributed to a number of factors under the responsibility of PAWS, including:  USA permits/documents, supply of right-sized crates, a sound transportation plan, and provision of medical information as it relates to PAWS' elephant collection.

"We think it's important to let the public know that we have been working diligently on  ensuring that our elephants' relocation  occurs smoothly  under conditions that ensure the health of all involved,"  said Dr. Graham Crawshaw, Senior Veterinarian, Toronto Zoo. "There still remain significant unanswered questions regarding the medical records and the prevailing biosecurity conditions at the PAWS facility."

The new information regarding potential health risks to the elephants raised concerns amongst several Toronto Zoo Board of Management members today. "As I have stated before, it would be entirely irresponsible to move members of our family to another home until we have all the answers to complete our due diligence review and make the best decision for the future of these animals," added Mr. Tracogna.

The Toronto Zoo has confirmed to PAWS that Environment Canada has the export permits for the elephants and will issue them as soon as the U.S. import permits are ready and provided. While our applications were filed with Environment Canada in December 2011, we were just informed by PAWS of the US import permit on September 18, 2012. The date of permit issuance was July 26th, 2012 (55 days prior). With an expiration of October 1, 2012, it seems unusual that the Toronto Zoo was only just notified.  An extension on the import permit will likely be required while the export permits are being prepared by Environment Canada.

Final Transportation Plan:
Under the current agreement, PAWS is responsible for making and paying for the safe and humane transportation arrangements for the elephant transfer. PAWS agreed that the air carrier (AN124) originally proposed by them was not suitable to transfer the elephants to California because the cargo area was not sufficiently pressurized to ensure the safe transport of the elephants and accompanying personnel. PAWS has yet to provide final details of the  transportation plan.

Crates and Training:
The three crates provided by PAWS need modifications in order to properly accommodate (fit) each elephant into their respective crates. While two of the crates have been modified and are deemed acceptable, one is in need of upgrades including lengthening as one of the elephants (Toka) cannot fit into her crate as the rear doors are not closeable.  Training has been conducted to prepare the elephants and accommodate transport. There have been a few setbacks (Iringa) as the preparation process is one of patience and trust to ensure the most humane transfer possible.

Medical and Health Records:
Toronto Zoo veterinarians Dr. Graham Crawshaw and Dr. William Rapley were permitted to review PAWS medical records in late June. The confirmation of TB at PAWS and the threat, if any, it may pose to the Toronto Zoo's elephants, is part of the due diligence review. Dr. Crawshaw has provided a list of questions/issues that he needs to be supplied or addressed by PAWS that are most pertinent outstanding medical record related questions, and that need to be answered in order to permit him to finish his due diligence review.  PAWS has been provided with Dr. Crawshaw's request for information. Additionally, there are some public accounts of the presence of tuberculosis (TB) at the PAWS facility. In December, 2011 the visiting team from the Toronto Zoo was not permitted access to two of the five barns where the elephants are housed. This lack of access combined with numerous PAWS staff wearing masks and freely moving between all five barns has raised some serious concerns due to the contagious nature of TB and potential fatal health risks associated with the disease.

About the Toronto Zoo
The Toronto Zoo is Canada's premier zoo and a leader in animal preservation and environmental protection. More than a tourist attraction, the Toronto Zoo boasts a number of leading programs for helping animals and their natural habitats - from species reintroduction to reproductive research. A world-class educational center for people of all ages, the Toronto Zoo is open every day except Christmas, and attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year.

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SOURCE: Toronto Zoo

For further information:

Hugh Mansfield
Mansfield Communications

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