Bob Barker joins effort to keep Tucson elephants together

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Reid Park elephants Connie and Shaba are on the verge of a breakup. Connie will be sent to the San Diego Zoo, while Shaba stay's behind in Tucson.

Animal rights advocates aren't happy about the forced breakup and have been fighting the transfer.

Now, a big name is stepping into the middle of this pachyderm protest.  The legendary host of the Price is Right is joining the fight for Tucson's elephants.

"We reached out to Bob Barker and he loves elephants and he wants to see Connie and Shaba remain together," said Tracy Toland.

Barker's putting his money where his mouth is, he's pledged half a million dollars to send both Connie and Shaba to a California sanctuary.

Now Tucsonans have to match that offer.

"If the 30,000 people that sent letters donated $10, we'd be halfway there," said Toland.

Last month, Tucson's City Council gave the zoo the green light to send Connie to San Diego.

Critics say it's cruel to separate the two elephants while zoo officials say it continues to be the best course of action.

"We take amazing care of our animals.  When we make decisions, we make them based on individual animal and species as a whole," said Reid Park Zoo administrator Susan Basford.

But now local activists plan to ask the council to vote to keep the elephants together in Tucson for six more months.  They say that's the time they need to match Barker's funds.

"I believe wholeheartedly that Tucson, with Bob Barker's help, that we'll be able to raise a half million dollars," said Toland.

"It's hard for me to evaluate a proposal that I haven't seen, but Tucson has made a commitment to have an accredited zoo in our community and that means we deal with other accredited facilities," said Basford.

Zoo administrator says for now the timetable for Connie's transfer is a bit fuzzy, unexpected December rain has delayed construction of the new elephant exhibit.

It's unclear how Tucson's City Council would vote on the issue, but it could take up the proposal as early as January 24.