Bob Barker joins showdown over Reid Park Zoo elephants
Reporter: Jessica Chapin
TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - A plan to part two pachyderms is hitting a pothole, thanks to the former Price is Right host, Bob Barker. Two Reid Park Zoo elephants, Connie and Shaba have spent 30 years together, but thanks to new regulations and the zoo's plans for a new African herd, Connie will be sent packing off to a herd of her own kind in San Diego.
The city council voted back in November to go ahead with the plan, but activists say they never forget, or give up. Tracy Toland appealed to PAWS and Bob Barker to find a solution.
"Basically we just told him the story and we asked him if he'd be willing to do matching funds," she said.
Barker agreed to put up $500 thousand if Tucson could raise the same amount to move Connie and Shaba to a PAWS sanctuary in San Andreas, California. Barker told 9 On Your Side reporter Jessica Chapin why he made the generous offer.
"It's an opportunity for them to have a better life than they've ever had at the zoo or would ever had in any other zoo," he said, "for anyone to oppose this is totally inhumane."
Barker is works with PAWS frequently, and supports the sanctuary.
"We want them to be kept together and there's no zoo that will take an Asian and African elephant and keep them together," he said, "but they are able to do it up at this wonderful sanctuary."
Despite the recent city council vote to ship Connie to San Diego, council member Paul Cunningham says the price is right for him to at least consider changing his mind.
"It's really difficult to say no we can't do that," he said, "I think it definitely deserves some discussion."
Cunningham says he would like to discuss putting it on the council agenda with zoo staff and fellow council members.
Zoo administrator Susan Basford, however, does not support the proposal.
"We're a zoo," she said, "The city of Tucson supports having an accredited zoo in their town and part of that means we work with other zoos."
Basford added that it was not likely she'd work directly with the PAWS sanctuary to move the elephants because they do not receive the same accreditation as the zoo, and therefore have different standards of care.
Cunningham says ultimately the decision will not be up to zoo staff. He says the city council will have the final say.