Letter to the editor, Toronto Star

The following is the text of a letter I recently sent to the editor of the Toronto Star after reading an article that appeared in the April 20, 2012, issue of that newspaper. View news article, here.

I have read your April 20, 2012 article titled, “The Toronto Zoo’s departing elephants have squashed its accreditation. Thanks, Bob Barker” with some dismay and profound confusion. 

To blame a benefactor who is donating a million dollars to the city and the zoo to assist in correcting a blatant, controversial blunder created by AZA and its pitifully inadequate standards, is incredibly rude, and economically foolish. 

If AZA’s standards were meaningful, the zoo would have lost its accreditation years ago for keeping multiple elephants in a barren, confined space with no opportunity to express basic elephant behavior. The elephant exhibit at the zoo has been a source of embarrassment to the city for years, and the city council should be commended for the decision to close the exhibit and relocate the elephants. The “elephantine mistake” has been allowing the zoo’s “expert staff” and the AZA to make the decisions, when they created the problem in the first place by allowing the substandard conditions to continue over many years, resulting in the deaths of several elephants. 

Mr. Barker has not made a pet project of securing the Toronto Zoo’s elephants, he simply offered financial assistance for their translocation to PAWS. Basic rules of etiquette indicate at least a thank you note is appropriate for a donation of any size; Mr. Barker’s generous donation deserves a huge vote of gratitude from everyone in the city. 

Conversely, if Mr. Barker decides to withdraw his offer, and he should, the city and the taxpayers who support the zoo will be left with a million dollar financial burden which I doubt AZA will assist in defraying. They will certainly be unable to finance the cost of air transport which zoo “experts” have insisted is essential. 

Losing AZA accreditation may be the first step on the road to saving the zoo; if not, they can always apply again next year after Bob Barker and his persistent “Come on down” blandishments have disappeared. 

Pat Derby

9 thoughts on “Letter to the editor, Toronto Star

  1. Great letter Pat! So glad to to see advocacy with teeth in it! It’s too bad if the Toronto Zoo loses it’s accreditation but if they don’t have an understanding of proper care of animals, then maybe they should. I sure am grateful for people like Bob Barker. I think he has pretty broad shoulders and doesn’t allow people like those who would blame him to get under his skin. They generally think pretty small.

  2. I do not understand why Toronto is being so difficult. These are sensitive, intelligent creatures that belong in an area where they can enjoy the rest of their lives.
    Keep up the fight, Pat and Ed and Mr. Barker, please don’t give up on this.
    Karen and Ed, long time members

  3. Nicely said Pat. I don’t understand why AZA wouldn’t want the best for the elephants. Everyone knows PAWS is an excellent organization with an excellent track record. They just need to bow down and let PAWS continue with the plan to get the ele’s to PAWS. Thank you Pat for all you do to help…and Ed also, I love that you both have given so much to dedicate your lives to the welfare of performing animals and their well being. I commend you both.

  4. Brilliant letter!

    The AZA is comprised of pious hypocrites. Their standards allow for abusive treatment of elephants. As Joyce Poole pointed out, for example, their minimum requirements for elephant enclosure size would be tantamount to keeping a human being in a 40-square-foot room. This organization had no objection to the Sand Diego Wild Animal Park transferring three elderly elephants to Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, where all three were dead within seven months of arrival. In the end, though, AZA needs its constituents as much as their constituents need AZA. AZA’s legitimacy suffers to the extent it does not have major zoos within its fold. I of suspect the real issue in Toronto is AZA’s fear of losing control of a major zoo, not any regard for the elephants’ welfare..

  5. Eloquently said, Pat, and I agree with every word. Shame on the city for not taking better care of the elephants in the first place, and then slamming a generous benefactor! Shame, shame, shame!

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