PAWS personnel told me that they had never encountered hostility and obfuscation to this degree. Indeed, it is the practice of PAWS to work cooperatively with zoos to provide a wonderfully supportive environment for captive elephants in their declining years.
Now, this month, with no opposition and very little fanfare or media attention, the three Asian elephants at the Calgary Zoo were moved in exactly the same way, and approximately the same distance, to "Elephant Trails" in Washington, DC's Smithsonian National Zoological Park. It's AZA-accredited, but what does it provide? Well, it "spans 8,943 square meters total" and the outdoor "exhibit" is 7,711 square meters: nearly two whole acres. (Mind you, that's divided among seven elephants.) The Toronto elephants now reside in an 80-acre enclosure and they appear to be loving it. Best of all, there is room to expand in the future. It is not the tiny, treeless expanse of flat sand that the Calgary elephants will have, but an area of rolling hills and copses of trees the elephants are free to nibble on. They can walk over a hill and be out of sight, all day long. One of the most serious threats to zoo elephants is lack of exercise on naturally variable surfaces. Toronto's three elephants were sadly out of shape when they arrived, but muscle tone is now developing. Elephants need to take long walks to maintain good health -- and at PAWS, they can.