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Toronto Zoo elephants begin journey to California sanctuary

After a long day of waiting the three remaining elephants at the Toronto Zoo began their journey to the PAWS animal sanctuary in California on a rainy Thursday night.

The elephants were scheduled to leave in the morning and were in their crates by around noon, but that time was pushed back because of inspections.

The trucks finally started rolling to California at around 10:30 p.m.

The zoo says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had concerns and questions for the transport company, but former game-show host Bob Barker — who has been pushing for the transfer — says zoo lawyers were using delaying tactics.

Toronto city council voted in 2011 to send Toka, Thika and Iringa after animal rights activists voiced concern for the welfare of the three aging elephants.

The move has been delayed several times due to disagreements over how they should be transported and whether the U.S. sanctuary is the best place for them.

Matt Berridge of CUPE Local 1600 says Active Environments — the group hired to move the elephants — told two zookeepers who planned to go along that once they reach the U.S. border, they must sign a non-disclosure agreement to continue to California.

Berridge says the zookeepers have refused to sign the agreement, which would prevent them from revealing anything that might happen on the U.S. leg of the trip.

“This is an emotional process and going there and seeing them get there safely is the closure of this whole thing,” he says.

Active Environments could not be immediately reached for comment.

The journey by truck is expected to take about 50 hours, and national zoo watchdog Zoocheck Canada has said at least two veterinarians and six handlers would accompany the elephants.

With files from The Canadian Press