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Toronto says farewell to elephants

Toronto Zoo invites residents to visit the elephant exhibit before it closes soon.

Toronto Zoo invites residents to visit the elephant exhibit before it closes soon.

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    Sunday, October 13, 2013, 4:06 PM -

    Nearly 40 years after the elephant program of the Toronto Zoo began, its final days are quickly approaching. 

    The zoo's website has began advertising the elephants' swan song viewing for those who want to say goodbye. The animals will be moved after Thanksgiving but an exact date has not been given. 

    The decision to end the program came after a vote by the zoo management program back in May, 2011. The zoo's elephants were the focus of attention ever since three of the animals died in a 14 month span back in 2009. 

    City Councillors decided in October 2011 to send the surviving elephants to the PAWS sanctuary in California, currently host to eight pachyderms. 

    The decision left many zoo workers unhappy. Matthew Berridge, vice-president of the union local that represents hundreds of zoo workers, said in a statement that "the system had failed these elephants. Politicians and have administrators failed to live up to their responsibilities to put the elephants' best interest at heart." Many zoo workers had hoped the elephants would be given a home in Florida.

    The plan was rejected because they would have been taken by truck. However, the approved plan to send them to California also requires the animals to be transported in the same way.

    People that supported the exit from the zoo often stated that elephants were not happy in the relatively small areas to which they are confined. 

    Many elephants have a history of attacking when under stress. In Springfield, Missouri an elephant named Patience killed a veteran trainer on Friday, Oct. 11 after catching the man off-guard by a sudden movement. Officials have said the animal will not be put down.

    But many argue that zoos give people the chance to see these impressive animals in the flesh, an opportunity many would not have otherwise. 

    The dangers of the wild 

    Millions of people visited the elephant exhibit at the Toronto Zoo during their time here.

    But now the animals will migrate south, to live out their final days in peace, a luxury not always offered to their wild counterparts. 

    Recently, authorities in Zimbabwe arrested nine people suspected of poisoning elephants to take their ivory tusks. The material is highly sought, and many are willing to risk some time in jail for the money they can get by selling it. 

    Protests were organized around the world on October 4th, in hopes of bringing some light to the problems that elephants face. 

    Elephants 'understand human gesture' 

    It's no surprise that elephants are among the most popular animals as reports of their intelligence are always in the media. 

    Their memory, albeit exaggerate in common lore, is still highly impressive among animals. And now new research shows that elephants might be the only non-human animals to understand the gesture of pointing without being trained beforehand. 

    The study is being conducted by Ann Smet, of the University of St. Andrews and offers the elephants the choice between two identical buckets. The animals tend to pick the one the trainer points at, and get a reward for making the right choice.

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