Toka, Thika and Iringa In Their New Home
An Animal Rights Article from

From Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
November 2013

See LOTS more pictures of the Toronto Zoo elephants now at PAWS [pdf]

It has been just over four weeks since elephants Toka, Thika, and Iringa arrived at ARK 2000 from Toronto, Canada, joining long-time resident elephants Mara, Maggie, and Lulu in PAWS' spacious African elephant refuge. Our dedicated staff is excited to work with these inquisitive new elephants, and have been working around the clock to make them feel welcome in their new home and to ensure their transition is smooth and comfortable.

Elephants are large, strong, and extremely intelligent, and they live within established, though sometimes shifting, social hierarchies. Elephants also have unique individual life experiences, distinct personalities, and, as long-lived animals, often come to us with pre-existing medical and behavioral issues. Combine all of these factors and you will understand that getting to know a new elephant and integrating her safely into a new group is a slow, deliberate, and careful process. Consideration must be given to previous histories of aggression towards other elephants, and efforts made to mitigate potential compatibility issues.

Our African elephant barn was designed by PAWS co-founders Ed Stewart and Pat Derby to be flexible for just this type of introduction process. Each elephant has her own section of the barn where she can hear, smell, see, and touch adjacent elephants in the barn. There is a central hallway running down the middle of the barn, and 18 hydraulically-operated gates located between each stall and the hallway can be individually opened and closed to allow as much or as little access to each elephant as is appropriate and safe. The outdoor African elephant habitat is similarly designed, with four large separately fenced areas connected by multiple gates that can be opened or closed individually to facilitate introductions.

Toka, Thika, and Iringa are eagerly participating in their own health care, holding still for voluntary blood collection from an ear while being fed favorite treats. Routine medical tests such as blood work and urinalysis are being performed on a regular basis to assess their current health, and also to monitor the status of pre-existing conditions as we treat them. For example, we are addressing longstanding low vitamin E levels in all three elephants by ensuring that they receive adequate vitamin supplementation, and we're checking blood samples periodically to make sure that they are absorbing the supplement. Vitamin E is important for muscle and nerves, and it has antioxidant properties. A deficiency of this very important vitamin can lead to significant health problems. Fresh vegetation is an excellent source of naturally-occurring vitamin E, and we are hopeful that the elephants' overall health will benefit from grazing on grass and browsing on trees and other living plants to their hearts' content.

Toronto zoo elephants PAWS
Toka takes a walk in the African habitat

Toronto zoo elephants PAWS
Thika rummages through a stick pile, a favorite pasttime for all the elephants

Toronto zoo elephants PAWS
Iringa (left) and Toka on the hillside

Toka, Thika, and Iringa are settling in well. Each day, we learn more about them as their individual personalities and preferences gradually emerge. As there is a history of aggression, separation and injury within their group, great care is taken to monitor their time together. We have seen very promising and positive interactions between these three new elephants and our long-time resident elephants Mara, Maggie, and Lulu during the time they've spent inside the barn. PAWS elephant staff members are experienced with introducing elephants, and are fully committed to this sometimes delicate and intricate process. As our co-founder Pat Derby always said, "We are on elephant time" now, observing and patiently encouraging each of our new elephants to proceed at her own pace to find her place within the group.

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