Toronto Zoo Elephants

The Toronto Zoo opened to the public on August 15, 1974, and the elephant exhibit officially opened in 1983. Since that time, the zoo has kept 10 African elephants. As of 2011, three elephants remain.

Toronto Zoo Elephants

Health records and necropsy reports indicate that the Toronto Zoo elephants have all suffered from health issues common to elephants kept in zoos.

Necropsy Reports
Tara - Died at age 40 in 2009. The necropsy report indicates that she had severe arthritis in both back leg joints which ultimately made it impossible for her to stand up. Tara had not been seen lying down in many years which staff believe was the result of constant pain from arthritis.

Tessa - Died at age 40 in 2009. The necropsy report indicates that Tessa had collapsed on at least two other occasions in the 3 years prior to her death. On the day of her death, Tessa was hit by another elephant during a struggle over hay. During the struggle she fell against the electric fence and was unable to get up. The zoo used straps, a tractor and ultimately a crane to try to get her to her feet but she died in the process. The necropsy report indicates the cause of her death as a combination of acute traumatic factors from the attempts get her on her feet as well as chronic wasting syndrome.

Tequila - Found dead, lying on the electric fence, at age 38. The necropsy report was not conclusive but noted lymph node abscesses and chronic passive congestion of the liver. It also notes that while unlikely, the possibility of electrocution must be considered.

Patsy - Euthanized at age 39 due to chronic pain from arthritis and foot infections.

Toronto - Died at age 10 in 1994 from toxemia, secondary to Salmonella gastroenteritis.

Tantor - Died at age of 20 years from heart failure shortly after a surgery for tusk extraction due to infection.

TW - Died days after birth in 1984 as a result of stomach and bowel problems.

Health Reports
Iringa - (age 41) - Chronic foot infections, lameness, poor appetite, unexplained weight loss, signs of sleep deprivation and in 2009, she was found lying on her left side unable to stand.

Toka - (age 40) - Various abscesses and infections on feet, ears and elsewhere; injuries from aggressive interactions with other elephants; salmonella and colic.

Thika - (age 30) - Colic, salmonella, and various abscesses and infections.

The surviving Toronto Zoo elephants are in early middle age by wild elephant standards, but Iringa and Toka are fairly old by zoo elephant standards. If the history of elephants in traditional zoo environments is an indication, there is a high probability that they will not survive very much longer and certainly not into the upper range of their natural lifespan. A factor in this will be the elephant's living conditions, including lack of space, challenging floor surfaces and cold climate.

Several of the current health issues experienced by the Toronto Zoo elephants have the potential to become far more serious and life threatening. For example, foot infections are the leading cause of death in captive elephants and colic can lead to potentially deadly collapse.

If the Toronto Zoo elephants were retired to a warmer climate, with large natural areas to graze with other elephants, they should experience enhanced welfare, improved health and longer lives. There have been a number of well documented cases of ailing elephants who have been moved to warm climate sanctuaries and then improved or recovered from many of the
afflictions that kill captive elephants such as chronic foot infections and  gastrointestinal ailments.

Maggie from the Alaska Zoo is an excellent case study. She had suffered from a number of physical and psychological issues in Alaska and eventually collapsed twice in one week from colic. The zoo decided to move Maggie to the
PAWS sanctuary in California where her health has improved and she is now socializing normally with other elephants.