Friday, April 27, 2012

Breaking Twist In The Toronto Elephant Saga. Who Beside Me Saw This Coming A Mile Away, After The Loss Of AZA Accreditation?

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti in China in 2010

The Toronto Zoo board and China have reached a deal to bring two pandas to Toronto.
They could cost as much as $20 million for the five years they will be here — not including all the bamboo shoots that they like to eat.

“It’s been an exciting ride for me,” said Toronto Zoo board member Giorgio Mammoliti. who has come under fire over the years for making expensive trips to China to negotiate the loan of the pandas.


Concerned about the future health of Toronto’s elephants and the very existence of Toronto’s Zoo, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is urging the deal to send the pachyderms to a California sanctuary be thwarted.

The Ward 7 councillor and former Chair of the Toronto Zoo Board has written a letter Toronto Zoo CEO John Tracogna saying: “It is my belief, that we did not apply our due diligence and ensure that we receive all the appropriate information before a proper decision was made and the safety of the elephants should be at the heart of this discussion.”
He has asked for Tracogna to report back to the May 14 Executive Committee meeting with the answers to seven key questions.
“As we are working under a time restraint, your prompt attention and full cooperation towards this is appreciated,” said Mammoliti in his Thursday letter. “I am deeply disappointed that the Toronto Zoo has lost its accreditation status with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). I feel the need to intervene on a recent decision that was made to close down the elephant exhibit, having Thika, Toka, and Iringa relocated to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California.”

A decision was made to move the animals into retirement and there have been reports that legendary American game shot host Bob Barker would foot the $800,000 travel costs.
But Mammoliti wants to know if Barker owns “any shares, or have any interests” in the elephant sanctuary “and, were the necessary legal measures taken for our assurance?
He also asks “with the loss of the AZA accreditation, how will this affect the agreement to bring Chinese pandas to the Toronto Zoo?” and “if we cannot regain the accreditation with the AZA, how many more animals and programs that we are so proud of . . . be lost?”

The councillor also asks if “Bob Barker been asked to pay the $800,000.00 it will cost for us to redirect Thika, Toka, and Iringa from the PAWS sanctuary to an AZA accredited facility in the United States? If not, will he be asked?”
He wonders “has the Toronto Zoo received all health records from PAWS regarding the elephants in their collection and “did our experts visit not only the elephant site but all areas of the PAWS facility to ensure the safety and upkeep of the animals are to our satisfaction? Were we denied access to any area of the PAWS facility?”

Mammoliti also forwarded his letter to Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and to Mayor Rob Ford.
“The message I want to send Mr. Barker is that the price is wrong if it means our world class zoo does not get it’s accreditation back,” he said.
Mammoliti would prefer the elephants stay but if they must leave, he would like to see Barker pay for them to be sent to an accredited sanctuary so that they are safe and comfortable and so that Toronto keeps its world class status.

Board member, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, said sending the elephants to PAWS “was the wrong decision” and “now, I just have to be certain we’re not sending them into something they’re going to get sick in and will shorten their life-span” since “because they’re not an accredited institution, they don’t really have any accountability.”
However Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, who led the charge to move them, said the elephants’ health and well-being is paramount.
She said all sides “except elephant trainers” agreed the elephants needed to be moved. “It’s unfortunate that our zoo staff have behaved the way they have,” she said. “I think it’s reprehensible and the smear campaign conducted on PAWS is absolutely appalling. It’s a black eye on the city of Toronto.”

But Mammoliti said the black eye will be if Toronto does not get the Chinese Pandas because of this.
Zookeepers and supporters also want their three beloved elephants to stay in Toronto if the zoo can spend money on facilities – or at the very least, sent them to an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited facility.

On their Concerned Elephant Keepers Facebook page, keepers are slagging PAWS, especially after reported outbreaks of Tuberculosis among its Asian elephants.
“This is not a last ditch (effort), in fact information has been submitted to council and the zoo board now for the last four months,” a member of the group, said Thursday.
Another posting on the site condemned a Facebook update this week by Councillor Michelle Berardinetti – who led council in the elephant vote – applauding the PAWS Sanctuary and giving background on the issue.
“You did not even visit the Toronto Zoo elephants or talk to any of their caregivers before you attacked the level of care that these elephants receive,” a poster named Joe Swanson said.
“There is TB at PAWS. It is very concerning and offensive that you will publicly deceive the people of Toronto that there is no risk to our elephants.”

Berardinetti reiterated the elephants’ health and well-being was the paramount issue. She said all sides “except elephant trainers” agreed the elephants needed to be moved.
“It’s unfortunate that our zoo staff have behaved the way they have,” she said. “I think it’s reprehensible and the smear campaign conducted on PAWS is absolutely appalling. It’s a black eye on the city of Toronto.”
Zoocheck Canada – who pushed for the transfer to PAWS – said the zookeepers are trying to create a “smoke and mirrors” situation to keep their jobs, which could be lost once the elephants depart.
“There are no elephants that are living at PAWS that have tested positive for Tuberculosis,” Zoocheck campaigns director Julie Woodyer said Thursday.

“There’s a certain segment of people who trying to use this to cast doubt. Some (zookeepers) still want to keep the elephants even though we can’t provide proper accommodation for them here.”
Some of the animals at PAWS came from facilities where they may have been exposed to animals that had TB, but those animals were quarantined in a separate place, far away from ours, Woodyer added.
The leading cause of deaths in elephants is foot infections, which is what Iringa is suffering from and she’s in far more risk if she stays here or goes to another zoo, she said.
Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, who sits on the zoo board, said she believes council flubbed in sending the elephants to PAWS.

“I think it was the wrong decision,” she said. “But there’s nothing you can do at this point.”
“Now, I just have to be certain we’re not sending them into something they’re going to get sick in and will shorten their lifespan,” Lindsay Luby added. “Because they’re not an accredited institution, they don’t really have any accountability.”
CUPE Local 1600, the union representing the nine Toronto Zoo elephant keepers, also voiced concerns about the rumours of TB at PAWS.
PAWS has hired a Canadian lawyer to help with the export and import of the elephants into the U.S., Lindsay Luby said, and the zoo is currently getting the animals’ health records ready.
The elephant enclosure now has three large crates on site to prepare and train the big three for the big move.

Story courtesy of Toby Styles.  Picture of  Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti added by me.

'The "Tuberculosis horse" has been ridden hard and furious, whipped into a sweat of late.   Elephant Tuberculosis and it's seriousness/transmissibility is one of the hardest issue's in the animal world for me to fully comprehend and understand.   Probably, because it seems it's importance is solely dependent on whether the animals are being gifted or seized.  If anyone can fully help me understand Elephant Tuberculosis and it's health impact please, be my guest.'


Anonymous said...

It was not the keepers who pushed through the issue of TB at PAWs as the media, PAWS and Zoocheck would like everyone to believe. It was citizens, myself being one of them who researched this, hundreds and hundreds of hours of research in fact. The keepers and the zoo were the ones who decided that due to the city's lack of funding or commitment to improving the exhibit that they would send the ellies to a new home. However animal rights activist and zoocheck supporter city councillors sit on the zoo board as ludicrous as that sounds. And they pushed the PAWS agenda thwarting any investigation of other viable locations. PAWS and its supporters have been slandering the zoo staff since the beginning and it was I and others who stepped in and fought back. As it so happens that fight began on the keepers page so the media and PAWS labelled us "staff". Here is a link to some info we gathered on the TB at PAWS. we have much much more and started sharing this research with council and zoo board as early as January 2012, shortly after Sabu died at PAWS. The sanctuary has had 3 deaths in 12 months and 6 deaths in 4 years. They withheld the information about Tb from council/zoo board/zoo because they knew that one of the lead criteria when decisions were being made about the elephants new home was that no facility with TB would be considered, TB in any form. You can find more information here a FB group run by citizens from around the globe and not the Toronto Zoo staff. We slagged PAWs, to defend our zoo and to stand up for zoos everywhere who have been attacked by these activists ion the past. We were sick and tired of their propaganda and the undermining of the value of zoos. We stand up for Toronto Zoo and we will stand up for any zoo which finds itself in a battle unjustly against ARAs. PAWS lied to everyone, they were disrespectful to the zoo and its staff when they got CAUGHT lying about TB at their sanctuary. I will not allow our elephants lives to be risked in order to help fuel anti zoo agendas and activists personal ideologies.

Wade G. Burck said...

I normally don't let anonymous comment's pass, that are "outspoken" towards an individual or organization. I am surprised you are not proud to sign your name to your comment. You used "I" this and "myself" that a number of times. I am going to post your comment in spite of the anonymous because I know who you are. It's obvious, you are the only person I know who insists on using the ignorant and disrespectful term "ellies" when talking about elephants. Just a reminder, back off the circus and RBBB Circus in particular. They are light years ahead of the current institution you are supporting, in elephant(not ellie) health care and husbandry.
While your help with the Toronto Zoo elephants(not ellies) I'm sure is appreciated, I haven't been able to figure out how an animal rights group missed recruiting your radical self.

Thanks for the update and clarification, none the less.