11/19/2011 12:07 EST | Updated 01/19/2012 05:12 EST

Toronto Zoo At Risk Following Elephant Transfer Concerns

Flickr: Aasen Ryan Family

The Toronto Zoo's accreditation could be at risk following city council's decision to send three elephants to a California animal sanctuary, two accrediting groups warn.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) have cited serious concerns about the decision to send the elephants to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California, a decision that was unpopular with the elephant keepers in the first place.

The associations recommend the Toronto Zoo Board of Management receive the elephant transfer report and review and assess city council's Oct. 25 decision to relocate the elephants to PAWS, which is not an AZA-accredited facility.

As of May 12, the zoo staff had been following a process to transfer Toka, Inringa and Thika to an AZA-accredited facility.

Coun. Michelle Berardinetti had made the recommendation without consulting the elephant keepers, saying it was all done for the benefit of the animals.

AZA and CAZA are also recommending the Toronto Zoo Board of Management establish a governance task force guarantee they can protect the zoo's accreditation.