Time for Action! Please read the quick review below. More detailed explanations and discussion can be found in other blog posts.
As we prepare for our elephants to leave it is important for the people of Toronto to know a few things which have thus far been missing from any media reports. The media are clearly hesitant to use freedom of information documents which they themselves did not acquire. The zoo veterinary staff and others at the zoo were censored by City Council and prevented from sharing officially with the media why they had concerns about tuberculosis at PAWS. You have only been given the Pro PAWS side of the story. This is how council wanted it.
As citizens and rightful owners of the Toronto Zoo elephants we had a right to know what the vets concerns were and why. Council ensured that the legal rights of PAWS were catered to while ours were denied. We still own these elephants. PAWS claimed legal obligations to previous owners of the deceased elephants in question to aid in the censorship of this information.
Our vets reviewed the necropsy reports of the 2 most recently deceased African elephants at PAWS, Ruby and 71. They found anomalies on both reports. In particular Ruby had a bronchial mass on one of her lungs. As tuberculosis would be found predominantly on the lungs at time of death the vets asked PAWS for tissue culture reports on these two elephants. PAWS and Zoocheck claimed they had given the zoo everything and had nothing more and at this time those reports are still outstanding. At that point there were some public legal threats from the PAWS/Zoocheck team. We conducted an extensive freedom of information search of all the USA agencies which would have these tissue cultures be they negative or positive for disease, USDA, California Fish and wildlife and California State Health Department. There was nothing. To the best of our knowledge these cultures were never done. As a result of council catering to PAWS needs only and ignoring the democratic rights of the people of this city you were never given an opportunity to review the vets findings. The findings which convinced them along with stacks of documented evidence that there is a risk for tuberculosis at PAWS. You were disallowed from knowing the truth and without an official statement or release of information from the zoo the media could not report on this. We had the facts. We did a reverse FOI to the University of Calgary. We were investigating the independent bio security report that Zoocheck commissioned and which council adopted over the due diligence of the Toronto Zoo. In that foi zoo vets explained to the individual who wrote the report. a Dr. Susan Cork (it was paid advocacy) about their necropsy findings for the African elephants. Without those tissue cultures we cannot be certain of the disease status of that herd. The diagnostics which PAWS claims clears that herd of disease failed to diagnose active TB in their Asian herd; tuberculosis which killed one elephant and infected two others one of which is now TB+. The African elephant with the bronchial mass at time of death had a high risk history of exposure to this disease having lived with an Asian elephant previously at the LA Zoo which had lived with two other Asians, both of which died from TB. She was treated as a precautionary measure at the LA Zoo. Then she went on to live at PAWS in a shared barn where both Asians and elephants lived together for over five years before a second barn was built in 2009. She died March 2011.
The Dr. Cork Bio Security report which was commissioned by Zoocheck Canada failed to include very important information. There were multiple missing trunk wash results in particular for the deceased African elephant Ruby but more importantly it failed to indicate that there had been human transmission of the disease at the sanctuary. Yes, someone got it and converted to the active form of the disease in the spring of 2012. When we did a FOI to access the genotyping for active cases of TB in Calaveras county (PAWS county) we received the two results. Both had the same genotype. The genotype actually matched another elephant other than the documented TB strains at PAWS. the elephant was Calle who had never lived at PAWS. It was clear and evident through logical deduction that one of the cases of human tuberculosis in the county was the case at PAWS evidenced in our FOI of emal correspondence between th PAWS vet and California State health. Calle (deceased TB+) did live with two Asian elephants, one died from TB and the other was the Asian Gita which went on to live with Ruby at the LA Zoo and then Ruby went on to live at PAWs and when she died PAWS did not have tissue cultures done on a bronchial mass found on her lung at time of necropsy. Are you getting it yet?
Consider these factors:
Three months before the zoo announces it is phasing out the elephant exhibit the source Asian elephant in PAWS outbreak dies. They indicate in foi that they had no idea she was even TB+ until after she dies and as a result wore no protective gear.
Three months after this death the African Ruby dies and it appears PAWS chooses not to have important tissue cultures done on a bronchial mass found on her lung
They knew full well they would be lobbying for the Toronto Zoo elephants at this time in fact their lobby began around 2009. Instead of having tissue cultures done to ensure the African herd is 100% clear of disease they choose not to? Why?
By summer of 2011 PAWS knows that two other Asians have been exposed and they show reactions on an early detector test called the STATPAK.
In the summer of 2011 a visiting sanctuary owner from Thailand notes in his blog that he witnessed masks and gloves being used in the barn for an Asian bull named Sabu indicating full quarantine. Sabu dies in January of 2013. PAWS and Zoocheck claim he died from euthanasia due to arthritis. Despite USDA documents which say he was TB+ at time of death they still make this claim.
In the Fall of 2011 Toronto Council seizes control of our elephants and make claims that there is no TB at PAWS
Councillors, PAWS and Zoocheck claim in the media that there is no TB at PAWS and that no elephant has ever died from TB at PAWS even though they know full well Rebecca died TB+ the previous January.
In the Fall of 2011 the director of the Detroit Zoo sends a letter of support for PAWS to the Zoo’s CEO, in it he indicates that there was on site transmission of TB at PAWS in 2011. This information is never made public. The zoo CEO knew about a tuberculosis outbreak and either refused to share this information with the public or was ordered not to by Councillors.
So at a time when animal rights activists and Councillors were attacking our zoo and maligning staff for opposing PAWS on the grounds of tuberculosis Council had evidence that the zoo staff concerns were not unfounded, that it was true.
In April of 2012 citizens accessed Freedom of Information Documents (FOI) proving here had been an outbreak of disease at the sanctuary and proving that all those involved with supporting PAWS had lied about it.
Our Freedom of Information evidence from Toronto City Hall indicates that Councillors DeBaeremaker and Berardinetti colluded with Zoocheck to malign and disparage the staff in the media. Zoocheck would spoon feed Councillors statements to make about the staff. They also were fed statements to malign the AZA when we lost our accreditation.
You have not been told the truth. The evidence which supports the Zoo vets concerns about tuberculosis has been purposefully censored by City Council in an effort to expedite the transfer of our elephants to what experts believe in an inappropriate facility which represents a risk to their health and welfare. As a citizen, zoo patron or zoo member you had a right to that information. Council chose the rights of PAWS over your rights! Because they knew you would support the scientific evidence and zoological expertise. They have the world convinced that this was nothing more than the AZA bullying a poor little sanctuary. Well that poor little sanctuary is aligned with an animal rights coalition which represents millions and millions of dollars. You were not told the truth and there is a risk of tuberculosis in the African herd at PAWS.
Rebecca and Sabu both had active TB 10 years before it recrudesced and they died. It took ten years for the disease to secretly eat away at their bodies. Latent TB is hard to diagnose and once an animal has it despite treatment they have it for life. It can reappear at any time. Another elephant which was documented in our research died at another facility 8 years after initial diagnosis and treatment. This disease has a 1-20 year incubation period. Why are we taking this risk with our elephants? Because you didn’t know the truth and if you had been told the truth you would have fought this transfer.
There is a high risk for tuberculosis exposure within the African herd at PAWS. And council chose to cater to their anti-zoo animal rights ideology over the true health and welfare of our elephants. They can no longer be trusted to make decisions about the health and welfare of animals at our zoo and Councillor DeBaeremaker as a zoo board member has betrayed us all. He must be removed from our board and the only way to make this happen is with your active support and you voice!
A few more important factors to note:
2009 IDA claim Toronto Zoo is one of the worst zoos for elephants in North America (IDA’s former director now works for PAWS)
2009 – PAWS also makes statements publicly about Toronto Zoo elephants
their campaign for our elephants had begun
John Tracogna is hired as new CEO of Toronto Zoo
His first order of business is to hire a consulting firm to assess the long term viability of the African elephant exhibit at the zoo. Multiple deaths had occurred at the zoo in recent years and facility upgrades were badly needed.
Comparatively 6 elephants died at PAWS sanctuary in 4 years.
PAWS ARK2000 – Rebecca a female Asian elephant dies
Lab reports sent after necropsy show she was TB+
FOI indicates that the sanctuary staff and vet team did not know she was TB+ until after she died
No protective gear was worn by staff
Three other Asian females are exposed
PAWS ARK2000 – Ruby a female African elephant dies
No cause of death is ever determined. Ruby had high risk history of exposure to TB at all her former facility homes including the LA Zoo where she had been treated as a precautionary measure due to exposure to a female Asian elephant whose two former herd mates had both died of tuberculosis. No tissue samples are sent to be cultured for disease. USDA TB Management Guideline strongly suggest that all deceased elephants have cultures done at time of death. Claiming to have the best disease protocols in the world why wouldn’t PAWS have these cultures done?
Toronto Zoo board decides to phase out its elephant exhibit and re-home their elephants. They lay out a series of criteria including no facilities which use elephant hooks or free contact and no facilities on the west coast due to the logistics for transport AND no facilities with previous or current issues with tuberculosis. The Tennessee Sanctuary is ruled out early on due to their past history with a TB outbreak in 2009. Council then chooses to maintain adversity to limited use of elephant hook at National Elephant Centre (used in calving to protect calves) but is willing to overlook disease and inhumane transport. They were willing to do anything to continue to cater to their anti zoo ideology.
By June of 2011 Two of the Asian female elephants exposed to Rebecca’s TB test positive on early TB detector test STATPAK. At the time this information had not been made public
July 2011 A visiting sanctuary owner Karl Cullen (now deceased) writes in his blog about his trip to PAWS. He indicates that the PAWS staff was wearing full protective gear, masks and gloves when working a bull Asian elephant named Sabu. This would indicate the presence of disease. Sabu tested positive and was treated for TB in 1999-2001. He came from Ringling Brothers Circus as a result of a legal settlement between PAWS and RLB.
August 2011 City councillors MB and Cho visit PAWS
Sanctuary councillors and Zoocheck Canada deny the presence of any TB or TB deaths at the sanctuary when zoo staff and citizens raise concerns about tuberculosis
October 2011 Toronto City council rules in a motion without notice that the elephants are city assets and seize control over decision making regarding their future home. Without any due diligence or official expert site visits they choose PAWS over the zoos choice the yet to be built but now completed National Elephant Centre. Council cites the limited use of elephant hooks for breeding and calving as their reasons for opposition against TNEC.
Fall 2011 Detroit zoo director sends letter of recommendation for PAWS to Zoo CEO and indicates in his letter that there had been on site transmission of tuberculosis at PAWS in 2011. CEO does not make this public
December 2011 Zoo staff visit the sanctuary, their site visit report is never made public FOI accessed the report in the summer of 2013. Report indicates multiple concerns about bio security protocols and zoo staff are only allowed to review 2 out of the 5 barns
Sabu the bull elephant at PAWS dies. PAWS claims he dies from severe arthritis, euthanasia due to severe arthritis actually.
February 2012 Zoo signs legal agreement with PAW sanctuary despite the zoo vets concerns over TB at PAWS.
FOI is made public includes necropsy reports and lab reports for Sabu and Rebecca confirming they died TB+. Sanctuary Councillors and Zoocheck claim they had “old” TB infections which were not contagious
More FOI is accessed which proves that there was on site transmission, Rebecca infected two other elephants. One of those is Annie with no previous history of exposure to TB except at PAWS. She converts to active TB June 2012.
The PAWS coalition claims African herd is safe but zoo vets demand to review health records of deceased African elephants. PAWS objects but finally relinquishes the medical documents but claim legal agreements with previous owners so that the findings cannot be made public.
FOI with the University of Calgary eventually accesses the Toronto zoo vets findings in those reports. One observation they found was that the deceased African elephants Ruby and 71 had no tissue cultures done upon necropsy. Ruby’s necropsy indicates she had a bronchial mass on her lung at time of death, 71 had…? The vets ask for the tissue cultures and PAWS claims they have no more medical documents to give. FOI requests done by citizens confirms that the tissue cultures do not exist and were never done.
Zoo vets consider the due diligence to be incomplete. The Executive Committee makes recommendation to send the vote back to council to determine if PAWS is the best facility for the elephants.
Zoocheck Canada hires Dr Susan Cork from the University of Calgary to do an independent infectious disease report on the PAWS sanctuary. FOI indicates she is financially compensated for her work. The report relies solely on the information provided to her by PAWS. Zoocheck claims to Dr Cork that the report is on behalf of Toronto City council, no record exists of any official request from any councillor or city of Toronto official for this report.
Councillor Berardinetti submits the report to Nov 25, 2012 council meeting one hr prior to discussions on the elephant transfer issue. Zoo staff is given less than 45 minutes to review the report. The report is misrepresented to council as entirely the work of Dr Susan Cork, eventual foi and a public statement from the University of Calgary indicate that in fact multiple pages inserted into the report were not the work of Dr Cork or anyone at the university of Calgary
Toronto Council adopts this report over the due diligence of the Toronto zoo despite evidence in the report of multiple missing trunk wash data results for both Asians and Africans at paws just prior to and during the time of their outbreak. Report fails to include the case of human transmission of the disease at PAWS, actually claims there was none.
All of the above statements are evidenced in our Freedom of information documents. As citizens of this city and zoo members we have no motive other than the health and welfare of our elephants. We have committed our time and our own money to fight this and to gather this information for the people of Toronto. We have no reasons to lie to you. This is the truth as we have documented it.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Demand that the information that has been censored about tuberculosis concerns be made public. It is our right to know the truth, these are our elephants and this is our zoo!
Councillor Doug Ford supports this transfer and could care less about the risks to our elephant’s lives. He sees the zoo as gravy and supports allowing animal rights groups to dismantle our zoo. tell him how you feel about that.
The Zoo CEO and Zoo Board chair said nothing, did nothing to defend the zoo and its staff and they did not fight to have the truth about vets TB concerns made public. They in fact aided in withholding information from YOU. Tell them how you feel about that
Zoo Board email address. Your concerns will be made public record
These Councillors led the charge in favour of PAWS Sanctuary and the recent motions at council to allow animal rights groups to dictate the future of our zoo. Let them know how you feel about this!
Ask the media why they never published the evidence indicated in official FOI documents so that the people of this city could know the truth! You can find your councillor’s contact information here And ask why City Councillors and Zoocheck were never called out for their LIES!
Feel free to publish your emails at https://www.facebook.com/HelpTorontoZoo