Just what will the 4200km road transport of the Toronto Zoo elephant entail?
Good question, sadly the transport plans appear to be top secret, FOIA is seemingly not available and the Zoo now refers any questions about the transport to PAWS. The Zoo’s CEO John Tracogna and zoo board chair Joe Torzsok clearly want to appease the will of council at any cost maybe at the cost of these elephant’s lives. Council rules supreme, they are accountable to no one but their own egos.
There has been nothing stopping either of these individuals from speaking out to the media, to stand up and declare that they are against this transfer but must kowtow to the will of Toronto City politicians who have claimed control and power over the fate of these elephants. To protect their jobs or positions on the board and perhaps future career opportunities they have said nothing, absolutely nothing at all in defense of these elephant’s lives, in defense if the zoological expert opposition. Their sole mandate is to exercise the inhumane demands of the non-experts at Toronto City Council. How can you run a zoo when the welfare of the animals comes second to the needs of politicians?
What we do know about the transport plan is that it requires one elephant on one flatbed truck with two others on another truck. Of course they will be chained on three legs in their crates but the trucks are not enclosed. The two elephants on one truck is of great concern, once again the Zoo’s CEO shows a total lack of knowledge, experience or seeming concern for the welfare of these elephants. He has been advised by his senior vet staff and the zoo’s animal care committee that this proposed plan is unsafe and inhumane. He went ahead and approved the plan against opposition from his entire senior staff and vets as well as industry experts. Because everyone knows politicians and anti zoo organizations are brimming with experience in zoological care and impartiality.
The Toronto Zoo elephants are protected contact. This means they cannot be loaded or offloaded in a manner lets say that circus elephants are, freely and at will. Once they are on the trucks they can only be offloaded safely at a secure facility which has the means to house them, both indoors and out. Generally this would have to be a zoological facility. Accommodating one elephant is reasonable three is another story. Since it appears Zoocheck cannot afford the air transport they promised as a means to acquire council votes and public approval to send these elephants to PAWS and they are undertaking the cheapest mode of transport possible do they have the money to pay a zoological facility the required fees if the need to offload arises? Or will they just drive non stop straight through?
Cranes are required to lift the crates and place them on to the trucks. The elephants will be chained on three legs without the ability to move, turn or lie down. It will be difficult for the older elephants to maintain healthy blood circulation. In case of an animal going down due to an emergency belly straps are placed beneath the animal and secured on either side of the crate. So imagine if the first elephant loaded on the two-elephant truck goes into medical distress. First a zoological facility will have to be contacted, next a crane will have to be ordered to either meet the truck at the location of the emergency if it is life threatening and the animal needs to be removed from the crates immediately or meet them at a facility for offload. There is no way to predict how long it will take to drive the elephant to a facility as we cannot predict where and when an emergency could happen. Whether or not they remove the second crate in order to access the distressed animal the belly straps will be attached to the crane and the animal will be removed, like this:
The crates will be exposed to the elements during transport. As the trucks drive into the cooler temperatures of the rocky mountain weather systems night time temps can go as low as 35° F/1°C. Whether or not there are heating and cooling systems in place is unknown as the plan has been kept a secret. The crates have slats which allow outside air to flow in and out so it seems any form of heating or cooling system would be pointless anyway.
Now of course our elephants are used to colder temperatures but they are not used to having cold wind blasting on them as they travel down a highway at higher altitudes all the while having to flex muscles systems and strain their legs to accommodate the sway of the vehicles, acceleration and deceleration. Perhaps this would be easier on younger elephants or elephants trained to travel but training elephants to stand in a stationary crate in the psychological comfort of the home they have known their entire lives is no preparation for the rigours of real transport at any distance let alone 4200km. They will be scared, stressed and physically at risk as a result. This experience will be terrifying for them, fear increases stress and stress brings physiological risks in an elephant which can cause rapid death. Have you ever tried to save a baby bird? And despite all the efforts you took to help it it died within hours? This is because it is so terrified having been “captured” that it’s heart rate increases to lethal levels. This increases that lactic acid in the animals system and without the ability to reduce those levels it has deadly results.
Capture Myopathy – A very real threat
“where the muscles are working very hard, they use oxygen faster than the blood can supply it. This creates an oxygen deficiency. Instead of producing carbon dioxide, the muscles produce lactic acid. If the lactic acid builds up in the muscle cells it destroys cell membranes causing muscle damage and the release of cell contents. When enough muscle cells are damaged capture myopathy occurs. Death can occur from shock, electrolyte imbalances, or from muscle damage itself.”
In the case of capture myopathy muscle tissues can be permanently damaged and its fatal results can occur immediately or within weeks. The best and sometimes only treatment for capture myopathy is prevention. It is common in wild animals but has been known to affect captive animals. In the case of the Storybook Zoo seal deaths during the Zoocheck initiated transport from London, Ontario to the St. Louis zoo it is thought that capture myopathy was the cause, the seals were young and healthy. Three out of the four perished, two in transport and one later at the zoo. Stress and fear killed them, transport killed them. In the case of the two older Toronto Zoo elephants Toka and Iringa, if one of them goes down during transport it is very likely it will never get back up again.
How the CEO of our zoo and Toronto City council can approve of this road transport is unimaginable. They cried animal welfare down at city hall, patted themselves on the backs as heros, they hailed “sanctuary” as the only answer for our elephants and ignored industry expert opposition. They ignored tuberculosis risks at the sanctuary and they denounced the 30hr road trip to The National Elephant Center in Florida as inhumane but in order to cater to their extremist dogma they silently approved of an 80+ hr transport as ok. How is 30hrs inhumane and 80hrs is not? Does the destination magically make the journey less deadly? Anyone who believes this is an extremist without the rational intellect to separate their cult-like beliefs from reality.
We fear the last images we will have of one or more of the Toronto Zoo elephants will be this:
Who will they all blame? They will blame the zoo staff for delays, as if 2 years would have made the difference. Iringa, the oldest elephant could not have travelled by truck at all two years ago due to a foot ailment. It has only recently begun to heal thanks to the world class vet care at the Toronto Zoo. There was no transport plan two years ago, planes were promised and we now know they were never able to make good on this promise, ever! The road transport plan was just secretly agreed upon by Zoocheck and the Ceo in the early spring of 2013 when they realized the Royal Canadian Air Force could not compete with the commercial air transport offer Zoocheck and PAWS mysteriously turned down. They did not have the common decency or concern enough for the elephants welfare to inform the elephant management staff in charge of training for transport that the mode of transport had been changed. They knew they were planning road transport as early as March 2013 and didn’t tell staff or the media until September, 7 months later! The new crates just arrived at the zoo at the beginning of September, 2013. The first crates were built incorrectly and the wrong size due to yet again more bungling by Zoocheck and Paws which had the incorrect measurements of the elephants. And of course to outline delays and who is responsible for them we could go all the way back to 2011/2012 and the lack of honest disclosure by Paws to the zoo and the people of Toronto about tuberculosis transmission on site and tuberculosis deaths at the sanctuary. The only people to blame in this fiasco are city councillors and the extremist animal rights egos of Zoocheck Canada and PAWS. If these elephants die in transport Zoocheck will have a perfect record for animal deaths during transport. I wonder if they have an award for that?
With the recent transport of a young bull from Calgary to Florida we have been able to determine a timeline for travel, how long the Toronto Zoo transfer might take. It is certainly not anywhere near the transport time they have been spewing to the media. The young bull, an experienced road transport traveller arrived at his destination in 75 hrs. This include multiple stops. Three older elephants with two on one truck means a considerably slower and longer drive. Flooding, forest fires and now the onset of an early winter in Colorado and Utah all come together to create what could now be a road trip which could exceed 100 hrs!
100hrs is humane according to City Council and animal rights groups.
They will stop at nothing to get these elephants. Because our elephants are now poster children which represent a victory against zoos on behalf of the anti zoo movement. They are being used to promote a cause and their welfare is secondary to the cause, and that is what we call exploitation.
Exploitation is the use of someone or something in an unjust or cruel manner.
The act of employing to the greatest possible advantage