When it comes to shelling out for animal welfare, the price is always right for Bob Barker.
On Monday, former "The Price Is Right" host and animal rights activist Barker welcomed three African elephants -- Iringa, Thika and Toka -- to their new home at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 compound in California’s San Andreas hills.
Barker, 89, footed the nearly $1 million bill to bring the elephants on the 50-hour truck journey from Canada’s Toronto Zoo to PAWS’ sanctuary, which provides elephants with “hundreds of acres of varied natural terrain to roam, lakes and pools to bathe in, and elephant barns equipped with heated stalls and therapeutic Jacuzzis.”
“This was a triple play!” Barker said while witnessing the elephants’ arrival at their new home they will share with eight other elephants. “It was a real battle and one of our biggest successes," he said.
Barker’s efforts to relocate the elephants started years ago when he began lobbying the Toronto City Council to move the animals to a more suitable home, arguing that zoos not appropriate for such large animals. Two years ago, the city council voted to send the elephants to the sanctuary, but the relocation initiative was plagued with delays and debate over the best mode of transportation
"The biggest difficulty for us in organizing this move was the Toronto Zoo,” Barker told CTV News. “The zoo found every possible obstacle to put in the way of PAWS...The zoo has been totally uncooperative."
In a response, the Toronto Zoo claimed that the elephants’ well-being was top priority.
"I think Mr. Barker needs to understand that at the Toronto Zoo, we have researchers, we have nutritionists, we have scientists, zookeepers, veterinarians,” zoo spokesperson Jennifer Tracey told CTV Toronto. “Everybody there is so committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all the animals on site.”
But on Monday, disagreements were put aside, and Iringa, Thika and Toka’s first steps into their sprawling sanctuary had Barker all choked up.
“It was more than emotional for me, for all of us,” said Barker, who ended every episode of his game show with a reminder to viewers to spay and neuter their pets. “I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. It’s hard to believe they are finally here.”