I am not a fan of anthropomorphizing animals in the name of animal rights. Truly the people who know these animals better than anyone are the individuals who have committed their lives to caring for them day in and day out, not people gleaning assumptions from a 1000 miles away based on a photo, a video or someone’s agenda driven opinions. Iringa is the zoos’ oldest and wisest of the three ladies at age 44 yrs. Her name I will assume comes from the City of Iringa located in Tanzania. To me Iringa almost always has a look on her face which just says ” I am not impressed.” It’s as if she’s got things all figured out and is just waiting for the rest of us to catch up to what she already knows. What activists always claim is boredom I see as a creature taking everything in, an observer who takes her time. Iringa is as trusting as she is a cautious thinker. I often think of her as that person in a room who doesn’t say much but is watching everyone and taking everything in.
From keeper talks and social media posts I have gathered a little bit about her so you can learn more about these lovely ladies we are fighting for.
She does not miss a beat, always looking waiting for opportunities to catch the staff off guard. For example, she once snatched a entire 50 lb bag of carrots and the keeper said it was clear Iringa felt victorious! She also snagged a stash of hay someone left close to the gate before feeding time. She will grab things making the job of Iringa’s keeper apparently one where you must be hyper vigilant at all times; her motivation appears to be treats! Or perhaps it is also the challenge and the smug sense of victory of snagging those treats which equally amuses her. She is an absolute opportunist and brilliant according to her caregivers. She catches on faster than the other elephants with new behaviours and does nothing she doesn’t want to; no amount of bribes will work which makes her difficulty adapting to the new crates reason for serious concern. She has a stubborn streak many of us can relate to! I feel as if at this point I am describing my Siamese cat, the similarities are astounding, just substitute chicken breast for hay or carrots and add several thousand pounds.
Iringa is the elephant we worry about the most when it comes to the 4200km road trip. Having just recently recovered from a foot ailment the trip could prove to arduous for her. She was not suffering from what Zoocheck claims is the leading cause of death in captive elephants, a deadly foot infection. As you can see she is still with us thanks to the world class veterinary care of the Toronto Zoo vets. I would like Zoocheck to evidence their foot infection claims with some kind of study or proof. It is the same foot ailment which pro paws councillors used to lobby last summer for an immediate transport claiming that the soft grass at PAWS would cure it. I would like to see the science on that as well. And it is the same foot ailment Councillor Cho used last summer in an attempt to force the transport of the elephants on a Russian Cargo plane which did not have a properly pressurized cargo hold. Just 7 months ago Zoocheck claimed in their lobby to the Department of Defense that a 4200km road transport would be too hard on Iringa, now it seems out of desperation Council, Zoocheck and PAWS are willing to overlook this concern.
Iringa is Toka’s best friend and dominant over her. She has Thika’s respect but still isn’t completely comfortable immediately next to Thika. When Thika is sleeping at night lying down, Iringa will stand very near her assuming that protective role of older and wiser. Keepers say you never hear her vocalize like the other two but they do hear her rumble or feel her rumble occasionally, she is the quiet one. It is hard to imagine given the strong friendship between Toka and Iringa how they would adjust to a new home if one or the other did not survive the journey, they have been best friends for 40 years.