The former Price is Right host, an avid animal rights advocate, funded the road trip for Iringa, Thika and Toka, African elephants that had been living at the Toronto Zoo in Ontario, Canada.
The Toronto City Council voted to have the elephants transported to a sanctuary after intense lobbying by Barker and other advocates who claimed most zoos provide too small a living space for such large animals.
The three pachyderms will join eight other elephants, including three Africans, on the 2,000 acres of land PAWS has in Calaveras County.
The ARK 2000 compound is the largest captive wildlife sanctuary in the United States. The park houses elephants, tigers and other large animals who have been relocated from zoos or retired from the circus industry. The compound operates as part of PAWS, founded in 1984 by the late Pat Derby and her life partner, Ed Stewart.
Stewart, considered one of the world's leading specialists in housing and care of captive elephants, said he'll work with staffers and veterinarians to introduce the new elephants to the rest of the animals.
"[The process] may take weeks, months or even longer," he said. "Our job will be to give each elephant the best care and their own time and space in which to adjust.”
Barker, 89, waited for the creatures and witnessed them step out of their trailer into the ARK 2000 compound.
“It was more than emotional for me, for all of us,” Barker said. “I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. It’s hard to believe they are finally here.”
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