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The Elephant in the Room on the fifth estate

posted 12 Nov 2012, 14:52 by Rob Laidlaw

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A no nonsense look at the keeping of elephants in zoos, with a focus on the plight of Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo and the three surviving elephants at the Toronto Zoo.


In the trade they call elephants Charismatic Mega Fauna -- huge majestic animals that help the industry draw millions of people each year. The fact is that Zoos and Aquariums are big business, generating more revenue than all professional sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada combined, according to industry insiders. Yet all is not well with the gentle giants in Canadian zoos. A heated controversy has erupted over what to do with zoo elephants when they are ready to retire.

This week on the fifth estate, Bob Mckeown looks at the bitter fight over elephants in captivity and what zoos will do to keep them. Weighing in on this controversy are Hollywood stars like Bob Barker and William Shatner, who are out to rescue aging elephants from Canada's cold climes and move them to an animal sanctuary in Northern California where they can peacefully live out their lives.

"Canada is a wonderful place and I love Canadians. I loved them on the The Price is Right and I love the country. But it ain't no place for elephants." says Bob Barker, former host of The Price is Right and animal activist.

Cold climates, tight enclosures, little exercise -- it's a far cry from the vast hot expanses of elephants' natural environments. Battle lines have been drawn from Edmonton to Toronto with zoos facing off against experts who say a cage is no place for these gigantic yet graceful giants. Could Canada's elephants be the beginning of the end for the world's zoos?