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Response to WPZ's scheme to send Bamboo and Chai to another zoo

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Opinion: Don’t send Woodland Park Zoo elephants to same fate at another zoo

Guest columnist Lyn Tangen writes an opinion piece for the Seattle Times urging Seattle to send WPZ’s two surviving elephants, Chai and Bamboo, to a sanctuary instead of another cramped zoo. Here’s an excerpt:

As a member of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephant Task Force, I reviewed the zoo’s elephant program. I strongly disagree with the zoo board’s decision to send Chai and Bamboo to another zoo. Chai and Bamboo should go to an elephant sanctuary.

In a sanctuary such as PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) in Northern California, elephants have many acres in which to roam without restraint. No one can seriously doubt that elephants that have 15 or more acres to roam are better off than elephants crammed into a 1 or 2 acre exhibit in a zoo.

Standards for elephant sanctuaries established by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries are in many cases more stringent than the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accreditation standards for zoos. Sanctuaries are licensed and monitored by the same governmental agencies as zoos.

Years ago, Bamboo was sent to the Point Defiance Zoo to be with more Asian elephants. She did not integrate into the existing herd and was returned to the Woodland Park Zoo. If Chai and Bamboo are sent to another zoo, they could end up living just as they do now, a herd of two in crowded space — or worse, separated and bounced from zoo to zoo.

Read the full article in the Seattle Times

Councilmember Sawant, a true advocate for WPZ elephants

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant is truly a hero for the elephants and all animals.  She is thanking YOU!  Please take the time to thank her for her support:  Kshama.Sawant@seattle.gov and please cc your email to the other city members so they know what you expect of them:  to use their authority to secure the retirement of Bamboo and Chai to PAWS sanctuary:
Jean.Godden@seattle.gov, Sally.Bagshaw@seattle.gov, Tim.Burgess@seattle.gov, Sally.Clark@seattle.gov, Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov, Nick.Licata@seattle.gov, Tom.Rasmussen@seattle.gov, Mike.OBrien@seattle.gov

Here is Councilmember Sawant’s letter:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Congratulations on your victory closing the elephant exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo, and on your continued struggle to see the elephants sent to sanctuary rather than to another zoo. Your organizing and persistence are truly inspiring.

Given your activism around this issue, I thought you might be interested in my recent interview for an online animal rights publication. I discussed your struggle, animal rights, and the importance of unity in the broader fight for social justice. I am interested in hearing your ideas.


Kshama Sawant

Citizens and press barred from WPZ Board meeting

wpz_meeting_lockoutThanks to everyone who came out in the freezing weather to Woodland Park Zoo’s Dec. 2nd Board meeting—and to those who couldn’t come, for emailing. About 75 advocates came to the “public” board meeting but only 14 were allowed in even though there were some empty seats and the room was filled to the 100 person capacity. Those who spoke gave heartfelt, informative pleas to retire Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary NOT another zoo.

Media were also banned from entering the “public” meeting. Nothing was mentioned about Bamboo and Chai which is no surprise as nothing was mentioned about Watoto’s passing (into freedom) at the last board meeting.

WRITE Seattle’s Mayor and City Council to use their authority to retire Bamboo and Chai to PAWS sanctuary!

BornFreeUSA: What Is the Difference Between Elephants and Zoos?

Check out this superb article on BornFreeUSA.org featuring the WPZ elephants

No conservation function is served by imprisoning elephants. Ivory poachers and ivory buyers are the problem; imprison them. There is nothing that an elephant in an enclosure can teach you that can’t be better learned many other ways”

We agree and are advocating for Bamboo and Chai to go to PAWS sanctuary—not another zoo.

Response to Woodland Park Zoo’s scheme to send Bamboo and Chai to another zoo

Sri at St. Louis Zoo

Sri in her cage at the St. Louis Zoo. This is where Woodland Park Zoo sent her.

Woodland Park Zoo announced it would be closing the elephant exhibit. We commend them for taking this action as the exhibit is inadequate and our climate is unsuitable for elephants. That’s the good news. Unfortunately they want to send Bamboo and Chai, the two surviving elephants, to another zoo. This is not commendable nor is it in the elephants’ best interest.

Bamboo and Chai have lived in a tiny zoo display since they were taken from their mothers as babies. They deserve space and peace in a sanctuary—in a warm climate.

Once Bamboo and Chai leave Seattle, we will have no ability to control what happens to them. They could be moved again, and again. Moving elephants around like furniture is not uncommon in the zoo industry.

Deborah Jensen, President and CEO of Woodland Park Zoo said that Bamboo and Chai would be “relocated together to an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facility that shares our commitment to animal health and welfare and conservation through education, and provides viewing access to the animals.”

Deborah Jensen is obviously not aware that PAWS Arc 2000 sanctuary in California engages in conservation and education. PAWS’ commitment to the health and welfare of the elephants in their charge is obviously greater than Woodland Park Zoo’s since PAWS monitors their elephants 24/7. We are not aware of a single zoo that monitors elephants 24/7. Had Watoto, who the Zoo euthanized in August, been monitored she might be alive today.

PAWS has a fundamental difference in philosophy about allowing animals to be viewed. Once an animal lives at PAWS, their life is given back to them and they no longer live on display.

The Mayor and City Council have the authority to approve or disapprove the disposition of the animals in the zoo. We are asking that they use their authority to require that Bamboo and Chai go to a facility accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries like PAWS—anything less goes against science and their constituents’ values.

Woodland Park Zoo is in Violation of Federal Regulation over Elephant Care


November 3, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined that Woodland Park Zoo is in violation of an Animal Welfare Act (AWA) provision regulating the housing of elephants outdoors.

According to a September 9, 2014 inspection report, the USDA found evidence that the Zoo violated the AWA by failing to ensure that elephants have “access to shelter during inclement weather to afford them protection and to prevent their discomfort.” With this violation, the Zoo has violated a provision of the Operating Agreement with the City of Seattle, which requires that the Zoo “shall care for all Zoo Animals in accordance with all federal, state and local laws and regulations.”

The inspection report notes that Zoo staff acknowledged that elephants are routinely locked outside without access to shelter during rain. The report also calls attention to the inadequate and dysfunctional configuration of the Zoo’s elephant exhibit, stating that “only one elephant at a time may be offered access to both the barn and the outdoor enclosure.” As a result, one elephant is locked in a cage in the barn in solitary confinement and one elephant is locked outside—both up to 17 hours a day.

According to the USDA report, Zoo staff stated that they intend to build a rain shelter in a year—two years after the Zoo’s own self-appointed Task Force recommended minimal improvements to the Zoo’s elephant exhibit, which included the addition of rain/wind shelters to protect the elephants from our unsuitable climate.

It is egregious and inconceivable that the Zoo has failed to take even the most minimal precaution to protect elephants from the obvious challenge of captivity in Seattle’s climate:  rain. This violation demonstrates that the Zoo is ill-equipped and lacks commitment to housing elephants in a manner that meets the most basic standards of welfare.

“Given the increased public scrutiny on the Zoo’s elephant program and the recent death of Watoto, the Zoo’s failure to prevent the discomfort of its elephants without USDA intervention is shocking,” said Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants. “Now that Woodland Park Zoo has violated the AWA and breached the terms of its contract with the City, the City Council must exercise its authority to ensure that Bamboo and Chai are retired to a sanctuary immediately.”

Read the USDA inspection report here

Bob Barker asks Seattle and WPZ to retire their surviving elephants

Download Bob Barker’s letter to the City of Seattle and Woodland Park Zoo

September 30, 2014

Dear Mayor Murray, Council Members and Dr. Jensen,

I have devoted much of my time to helping animals and have been an advocate for releasing elephants to sanctuaries for many years. In October of last year, the three elephants from the Toronto Zoo were successfully retired to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). As you may be aware, PAWS provides elephants with space to walk, forage, swim and live their lives to the fullest.

Chai and Bamboo in Seattle have a similar poor quality of life as the elephants had in Toronto. (Sadly, Watoto died before she could have a single day in a sanctuary.)  Like Toronto, Seattle’s elephants only have about an acre yard. Toronto Zoo’s elephant barn was 4 times larger than the barn at Woodland Park Zoo yet Toronto’s City Council and Zoo Board felt it was not large enough.

Seattle’s wet and cold climate forces these highly intelligent animals to be locked up in tiny cages in the barn.  This 16 – 17 hours of daily confinement lasts for over half of the year.  The conditions in which your elephants live are physically and psychologically damaging to these far ranging animals who are genetically wired to move great distances.

No matter how many millions of tax payer dollars Woodland Park Zoo and the City of Seattle spend on improving the elephant exhibit, the Zoo is landlocked and can never provide the amount of space these giants need.  The Zoo cannot change the climate that causes the prolonged lock up.

Retiring the elephants and creating a non-live exhibit would make more sense; freeing up money to save elephants in the wild.

I’m asking Seattle’s Mayor, City Council and Woodland Park Zoo’s management to make the humane decision to retire Bamboo and Chai to PAWS.



Bob Barker
Cc: Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

Editorial: Learn from the death of zoo elephant Watoto, move remaining elephants

From the Seattle Times, an editorial on the tragic death of Watoto. Here is an excerpt:

A NUMBER of lessons should be drawn from the investigation into the death of Watoto the elephant. Among them: Chai and Bamboo, the two surviving females in the Woodland Park Zoo’s pachyderm exhibit, deserve to live out their days in a warm and spacious sanctuary.

Spare these two beloved creatures the pain Watoto suffered before she was euthanized on Aug. 22.

Zoo officials say they do not know whether the 45-year-old African elephant lay down or fell. But chronic arthritis in Watoto’s leg joints likely rendered her unable to stand back up, according to Woodland Park’s director of animal health, Dr. Darin Collins.

The city should remove Chai and Bamboo from captivity as soon as possible. The zoo should also reveal how long Watoto was down, as well as why records indicate no one checked on the exhibit in the hours leading up to her collapse.

Had she been found sooner, she might have stood a chance of survival — at least this time.

Read the full editorial and leave a comment on the Seattle Times site

Zoo Captivity and Lack of Monitoring are to Blame for Watoto’s Premature Death

For Immediate Release

Watoto kept in solitary confinement

Watoto, 1969 – 2014

Woodland Park Zoo’s admission yesterday that Watoto, an elephant who died on August 22, 2014 after she was found down in the morning, confirmed in part what we already knew: Watoto died from chronic health issues caused by zoo confinement, most notably debilitating arthritis. But the Zoo raised more questions than it answered and continues to ignore two critical questions: How long was Watoto down and who, if anyone, monitored the elephant exhibit the night and morning of Watoto’s death?

The Zoo’s medical records showed steady deterioration in Watoto’s arthritic and lame condition. The Zoo’s records state “chronic reduced range of motion” and “increased lameness.” The lameness had gotten so extreme that she was taken off display for a time prior to July 21st, 2014. Arthritis and lameness in elephants confined in zoos is directly related to their environment and among the leading causes of premature death. Watoto was forced to stand on hard substrates during prolonged lock up in the barn and on unyielding compacted ground outdoors.

Records obtained by Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants confirm that nighttime security did not visit the elephant exhibit the evening and morning of August 21 and 22. Security staff made rounds which included patrols of the parking lots, gates, fences, the carousel, the rose garden, and furnace with no visit to the elephant exhibit.

This means that Watoto could have been down for at least eight hours before keepers discovered her the morning of the 22nd. The Zoo acknowledged that it can be life-threatening for an elephant to be lying down for an extended period of time. Why did the Zoo fail to provide overnight monitoring to an elephant known to suffer from chronic lameness, which put her at risk of falling down or increased her inability to rise on her own?

Despite Watoto’s decline and the grave consequences associated with a fall, Woodland Park Zoo’s Elephant Management Protocol does not include any plan to manage emergencies involving its elephants; even emergencies as common in the zoo industry as elephant falls.

Attempts to raise Watoto the morning of the 22nd with cloth straps and machinery were unsuccessful. While the Zoo took “several hourly blood draws,” it never called the fire department to attempt to raise her. Elephants in similar deadly predicaments in zoos have successfully been raised with fire department equipment, as was the case with Maggie in Alaska, who went down twice. Maggie is now thriving at the PAWS sanctuary in California.

“If the zoo had adequate monitoring in place or called in the fire department to raise Watoto, she might be alive today” says Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo urges Mayor Murray, the Seattle City Council and the Woodland Park Zoological Society to immediately retire the two surviving elephants, Chai and Bamboo to a sanctuary. At a sanctuary they can experience what was denied to Watoto: the opportunity to heal from the physical and psychological damage caused by captivity and the chance to live a long life in a warm climate on vast acreage.

Seattle’s Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants was one of the sponsors of Seattle’s Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. We joined about 130 cities worldwide to bring awareness to the poaching crisis with may cause the extinction of these species within our lifetime. Please sign the petition and donate to the organizations listed. It is through their worthy and perilous efforts that these animals will be saved.

Check out the article and great photos on Rescue News about the event

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