Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Toronto’s City Council last fall approved the transfer of three aging elephants from the local zoo to our good friends at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s sanctuary not far from Born Free USA’s headquarters in Sacramento. We cheered, because this decision clearly was in the elephants’ best interests.
But we knew there was strong opposition, and that some would not be content to accept defeat silently.
So it came as no great surprise — but with great disappointment — that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums announced, as a result of the elephants’ impending transfer, that the Toronto Zoo has been stripped of its AZA certification and will not be allowed to reapply until next year. According to a story in the Toronto Star published online, “The AZA says the council vote contravened the association’s governance rules.”
The zoo’s chief executive officer was quoted as saying the decertification will have limited impact on the zoo’s programs and standing. But what it does do is send a message that the zoo community does not support sanctuary life for elephants. Shame!
Toronto city officials, like Detroit city officials before them, made a compassionate and politically courageous decision to place the elephants’ welfare over strident calls to retain the elephants, calls that I would categorize as selfish and ill-considered.
Now if only other zoos would follow, and someday in the not too distant future there will be no elephants in any zoo, anywhere — for the very specific reason that elephants deserve more than the modern zoo can offer. And at some point after that, no sanctuaries would be needed for elephants who’d been subjected to the zoo brand of life: metal bars, concrete floors, grossly inadequate space, limited if any socialization, etc.
African elephants don’t belong in Toronto (or Los Angeles or Dallas or Washington, DC). African elephants belong in Africa.