Celebrating Toka and Thika's Five-Year Anniversary at PAWS!
Animal Stories from All-Creatures.org

FROM

PAWS Performing Animal Welfare Society
October 2017

Five years ago this month, African elephants Toka, Thika and Iringa arrived at ARK 2000 from the Toronto Zoo. The Toronto City Council voted to relocate the elephants to PAWS after the zoo decided to end its elephant program.

Elephans Toka Mara
Thika, left, has bonded with Mara and can be seen following her around like an enthusiastic little sister.

Five years ago this month, African elephants Toka, Thika and Iringa arrived at ARK 2000 from the Toronto Zoo. The Toronto City Council voted to relocate the elephants to PAWS after the zoo decided to end its elephant program. It seems like only yesterday that we eagerly awaited the specially outfitted semi-trucks carrying them to ARK 2000. We vividly recall the excitement their arrival stirred in the elephant barn, as Maggie, Mara and Lulu rumbled and trumpeted their welcome (watch the video and read comments by Dr. Joyce Poole of ElephantVoices below). Sadly, Iringa was humanely euthanized in July 2015 following a long history of degenerative joint and foot disease, the leading reasons for euthanizing elephants in captivity. At the time of her death, Iringa was the longest-surviving Toronto elephant.

Elephants Toka Lulu Maggie
Toka (above, left) has found lifelong companions in Lulu and Maggie and is never far from them as the group moves through their rich habitat.

At age 48, Toka is the older of the two elephants. She’s easy to identify with her long tusks. Toka was only four years old when she arrived in Toronto, having been captured in Mozambique. She likely lost her mother and family members in a government cull. We can never give back all that Toka has tragically lost, but we can give her a life that is far more natural: open spaces, the companionship of other elephants, and the freedom to choose her activities (as much as is possible in a captive environment).

Toka particularly enjoys a good mud bath. In fact, she and the other elephants are fond of digging their own mud holes and there are quite a few of them in the habitats! Toka can be found splashing, rolling and coating herself in the slippery soil, an activity that provides both protection for her skin and some fun. She has found lifelong companions in Maggie and Lulu and is never far from them as the group moves through their rich habitat.

Thika was born at the Toronto Zoo in 1980 (October is her birthday month) to mother Tequila and father Tantor. Sadly, Tequila rejected Thika shortly after birth, a situation that is not uncommon in zoos. We can sense that this experience deeply affected her and believe that Thika’s new life at PAWS may help her heal from that difficult beginning. Since she only knew life in a zoo before coming to PAWS, it was exciting to introduce Thika into a spacious and natural environment where she could freely roam, explore, and forage on fresh vegetation – though it may have taken a bit more time for her to ease into these innate behaviors.

Thika has bonded with Mara and can be seen following her around like an enthusiastic little sister. Together they traverse a dynamic habitat with rolling, oak tree studded hills and different areas, smells and sights to investigate. Thika is the tallest of the elephants, notable for her long legs. She is the only captive born African elephant at PAWS.

Elephants Toka Maggie
Toka and Maggie at ARK 2000.

Some of our supporters have wondered why these two elephants are not living together. As we reported in our June 2018 newsletter, despite being highly social animals, not all elephants get along. This is the case with Thika and Toka. Unfortunately, the two elephants had a history of incompatibility at the Toronto Zoo, which persisted when they came to the sanctuary. Our first priority is always the health and well-being of the animals, and, in this case, creating two separate groups was the kindest thing to do. Today, everyone is relaxed and able to just be the elephants they are, doing what elephants like to do—as it should be. 


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