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animal welfare

One year after a contentious council decision, the fate of Toka and Iringa as well as Thika remains unknown. , (left) and Iringa, respectively, 42 and 43 year old African elephants, are photographed on May 1 2012 at the Metro Toronto Zoo. The fate of three elephants is up in the air as they need to be relocated because of lack of space for them at the Toronto zoo. They may be sent to either a zoo in California or to PAWS,a sanctuary also in California. Well known personality Bob Barker has offered to pay for shipping the elephants to PAWS but the Toronto zoo has concerns over some of the sanctuary's medical records.(Photo by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel thinks Toronto city council is being "ridiculous" by calling on the Alberta capital to move an aging elephant out of its zoo.

Mr. Mandel fumed as he opened a council meeting Wednesday.

"I think it's very disrespectful of other cities who pass resolutions about what Edmonton should or shouldn't do," he said. "I think [Toronto] should understand why we're doing what we do. We've been told repeatedly that this particular, wonderful addition to our city would die if we shipped her out."

Toronto council voted late Tuesday to transfer three remaining elephants at its zoo to a sanctuary in California. The giant animals – Iringa, Toka and Thika – are to go to the Performing Welfare Society sanctuary in San Andreas by the end of the year.

In an unusual move, part of the council's motion included an agreement to push Edmonton to move its lone elephant, Lucy, to a warmer climate as soon as possible.

The 37-year-old Asian elephant has been at the centre of a lengthy fight between Edmonton and animal rights groups. Even the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to wade into it.

The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled last year against the groups' plan to sue the City of Edmonton over Lucy. The Supreme Court then refused to hear an appeal.

The battle over the pachyderm's placement has attracted celebrities, sports figures and respected authors. Retired game-show host Bob Barker campaigned for Lucy, as well as the Toronto elephants, to be moved to the United States.

Milton Ness, a veterinarian at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, said Toronto's opinion won't change his mind on what's best for Lucy.

The elephant suffers from arthritis and also has a respiratory obstruction that makes it difficult for her to breathe, he said. "That's just plain dangerous to think about moving her."

Mr. Ness said the Toronto elephants are healthy, so moving them isn't a medical concern. The issue up for debate was their destination. Toronto council and the zoo disagreed on which facility the trio should call home.

Mr. Mandel added that Edmonton had another elephant, Samantha, who was moved to North Carolina in 2007. "That was the best thing to do for that individual elephant."

Tove Reece with Voice for Animals, who was part of the Lucy lawsuit, hasn't given up trying to have Lucy moved. She believes keeping the animal in Edmonton will kill her.

"There's no two ways about it," said Ms. Reece, adding Lucy has horrible foot abscesses that can lead to other infections. She also can't go outside for walks in the winter and spends most of her time standing on concrete.

Ms. Reece said she recently swayed former Beatles legend Paul McCartney to the cause and was given permission to set up an information table with a petition at his Edmonton concert on Wednesday night.

She said she doesn't understand why Edmonton and its mayor are refusing to listen to others.

"I just don't understand why we're so dug in," said Reece. "It was the same thing when Bob Barker was here. 'Well, what's he doing coming here and telling us what to do?' I think what people are saying is 'There's a problem with keeping elephants in captivity. Please, look at the facts.' "

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