(Reuters) – Former “The Price is Right” host Bob Barker is spending $880,000 to fly three elephants to sunny California in style aboard a private cargo plane, he said on Friday.
Barker agreed to foot the bill to move Thika, Iringa and Toka to PAWS Sanctuary in San Andreas, California from the Toronto Zoo after growing concerned that Canada’s chilly climate was unsuitable for them. In the wild, elephants live in the warmer weather regions of Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
One of the elephants — a female — had a foot problem that could have made a trip by truck fatal, Barker said, which is why he agreed to pay for a flight for all three animals.
“I thought it would be so tragic for them to have suffered like they have for such a long time, and then to have her not be able to make it,” Barker told Reuters.
A representative from the Toronto Zoo was not immediately available for comment. Thika, Iringa and Toka are the zoo’s last remaining elephants.
The California sanctuary has acres of land for the elephants to explore, with lakes, hillsides, flatlands and other pachyderms already there.
“They’ll have trees, elephants love to tear up trees, they’ll have all the trees they want to tear up,” Barker said.
A Russian-built cargo plane has been chosen for the mission, which is due to take place before May 15.
Veteran entertainer Barker hosted game show “The Price Is Right” from 1972 to 2007. An animal lover, he often ended the show by urging viewers to have their pets spayed or neutered.
The television personality said he plans to be at the sanctuary to greet the elephants when they arrive, but that he will be cautious. “I don’t want to get caught in a three elephant stampede,” he said.