Bob Barker remembered as 'strong voice for animals' in Canada, says wildlife advocate

TORONTO — Television host Bob Barker charmed viewers on "The Price is Right," but it's his "strong voice for animals" that one Canadian wildlife advocate says will be irreplaceable.

Julie Woodyer, campaigns director at Zoocheck Canada, knew Barker for years as they collaborated on both successful and failed efforts to free animals from captivity at Canada's zoos.

She says Barker brought a unique generosity that was unmatched by other celebrities, often opening up his chequebook to support the cause and willingly making appearances at events to raise awareness.

Barker died on Saturday from natural causes at the age of 99.

Woodyer says she first connected with the TV host and his partner Nancy Burnet as Zoocheck attempted to free Lucy the elephant from the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

While the campaign was unsuccessful, Barker reteamed with the organization to move three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to a sanctuary in California and also gave $50,000 to help build Manitoba's first black bear cub rehabilitation centre.

"Lending his celebrity voice ... really boosted those campaigns significantly and allowed us to have a broader audience to talk to and to explain why it's wrong to keep elephants in Canada," Woodyer said in a phone interview.

"I'm not sure who, if anyone, could ever take that on and be the strong advocate that Mr. Barker was, especially on behalf of captive wildlife."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2023.

David Friend, The Canadian Press