TORONTO, June 20 (UPI) -- Three elephants at the Toronto Zoo are being trained for their long airlift retirement flight to California, officials said.
Iringa, Toka and Thika are undergoing training to walk into and stay inside three giant wooden crates that will be trucked onto a special Russian-built aircraft, the Globe and Mail reported Wednesday.
The animals have been the subject of a battle of wills among zoo staff determined to keep them, the Toronto city council and animal rights activists equally determined to ship them from a hostile climate to a sprawling rescue facility in San Andreas, Calif.
The Performing Animal Welfare Society offered to accept the elephants into its 2,300-acre property, which is not a zoo, but a rescue and retirement facility.
Last year, the zoo board rejected calls to send the elephants there, saying it isn't an accredited facility. The city council overruled the board and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums revoked the zoo's own accreditation, the report said.
Officials have set a tentative date of Aug. 3 for the elephants to be hoisted by crane onto trucks, then driven to the Toronto airport and loaded in their crates into a massive Antonov An-124. The flight will take more than 5-hours, first to Sacramento, then on to San Andreas, the report said.
Former U.S. TV game show host and animal activist Bob Barker has offered to pick up the $622,000 cost of transport.