Renowned Actress Joins Effort to send Suffering Elephants to a Sanctuary

Lily Tomlin - Photo from MSNBC

Lily Tomlin Lily Tomlin

Seattle, WA – Acclaimed actress, comedian, writer and producer Lily Tomlin will appear at a news conference with Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, a campaign of Northwest Animal Rights Network and national zoo watchdog group, In Defense of Animals to make an impassioned plea to the City of Seattle and Woodland Park Zoo to send the elephants Watoto, Chai and Bamboo to a sanctuary.

What: News conference with Lily Tomlin
When: Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11am
Where: Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103 Room #1 [directions]
Who: Lily Tomlin, Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants (FOWPZE), In Defense of Animals, elephant advocates and concerned citizens
What else? Doughnuts and coffee

Tomlin’s visit comes on the heels of FOWPZE’s shocking finding that the elephants at Woodland Park Zoo are locked indoors in small, barren rooms for 16 – 17 hours a day for about 7 months out of the year. In contrast, free-ranging elephants walk tens of miles a day and are active for 20 hours a day.

“Elephants were never meant to live in the confinement of small urban zoos,” states Tomlin. “They are the world’s largest land mammals and they need to move to stay healthy.”

“The intensive and prolonged confinement of the elephants at Woodland Park Zoo is causing serious physical and mental suffering,” adds FOWPZE co-founder Alyne Fortgang. She says Zoo medical records paint a disturbing picture, with the elephants suffering painful joint and foot disorders, arthritis, and obesity. They also display abnormal stereotypic behaviors such as repetitive pacing and swaying.

“We’re happy to welcome Lily Tomlin to the fight for these elephants’ lives,” says Nancy Pennington, FOWPZE co-founder. “Woodland Park Zoo cannot provide the space, climate or habitat the elephants need to live a decent life.”

Tomlin has a long history of advocating for elephants. Turning her attention to Seattle, Tomlin will urge that the humane decision be made to send the elephants to the 2,700-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The Elephant Sanctuary has agreed to transport and care for the elephants for life at no cost to the City of Seattle or Woodland Park Zoo.

7 Responses to “Lily Tomlin Advocates For Zoo Elephants’ Release”

  1. David Hancocks on 25 Apr 2009 at 12:05 am #

    Though I am buoyed and delighted by Lily Tomlin’s brave move into the fight, I am also greatly frustrated and deeply saddened that her action is necessary. Woodland Park Zoo is today spreading so much self-serving misinformation about elephants.

    The physical suffering and mental pain that so many elephants have suffered at Woodland Park Zoo over the decades is soaked into the very soil of the place. It is a terrible history, and it is far past time that it was all brought to an end.

    The humane and ethical thing to do is to send Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants to the Tennessee Sanctuary. And to do it this year!

  2. vicki romero on 27 Apr 2009 at 11:05 pm #

    I saw the story today on the Woodland Park Elephants. It only took me a second to know that they need to be relocated. The elephants had “moss” on their backs. My God send the to a place where the can live in open spaces and not the cold, damp Pacific NW.


  3. vicki romero on 27 Apr 2009 at 11:09 pm #

    Correction I typed too fast and had a typo:

    I saw the story today on the Woodland Park Elephants. It only took me a second to know that they need to be relocated. The elephants had “moss” on their backs. My God send “them” to a place where “they” can live in open spaces and not the cold, damp Pacific NW.


  4. robert on 28 Apr 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    NARN and the “Friends” of WPZ are really starting to annoy me. They spout the same lines about the elephants without ever citing a credible source (or only cite the studies that back up there position), they bring in people who probably have never set foot in the zoo to say the elephants should go to the sanctuary, and they say you can educate the public without the animal being there. Obviously they have tons of experience with educating the public about elephants as there is not a single link to an elephant conservation program or any information on what they are doing to save the wild elephants and their habitat on their website. Heck, they don’t even have any basic facts about elephants on their website. There are no links to stories about the poor treatment these animals receive in places like Thailand where they are put to work as loggers and transportation for tourists (not to mention chained and beaten which the WPZ elephants NEVER are), culling of heards in Africa and the destruction of habitat by humans in both places. It is funny that they use dinosaurs as the example for educating the public without the animal not being there on the seattlepi boards – last I checked dinosaurs haven’t been around in a few years and their mystery is what draws people to them. It is a terrible comparison. Maybe we will just have to wait until elephants are extinct until groups like NARN will do something to save them.

    As for the posters here – Mr. Hancocks, no offense, but you were the zoo director and did nothing to end the elephant exhibit, let alone advance their care with things like protected contact – a bit hypocritical if you ask me and I just can’t take anything that you say seriously, and vicki, the “moss” that you were referring to was probably the hair of the elephants on their backs. Thanks for proving my point for me.

  5. Caroline on 28 Apr 2009 at 8:15 pm #

    Lily is very well-informed and has seen the WPZ elephants. I saw her at the zoo while I was visiting. So she knows firsthand what she’s talking about. I have also seen the elephants locked up in the small rooms in the barn. It’s like locking a person in a walk-in closet most of the time. It’s ridiculous to think that is the way an elephant should live just so Johnny can see them up close. This inhumane keeping of elephants in small spaces for human entertainment must end and Lily Tomlin is right. Send them to the Sanctuary where they can live or leave them at the zoo where they will certainly die before their time.

  6. Susan on 29 Apr 2009 at 6:59 am #

    Robert – Conservation and education are noble goals. But there can be no justification for keeping elephants in conditions that cause them to suffer and die prematurely. If a zoo cannot meet elephants’ needs for space, natural movement (which means not being locked indoors in a tiny stall for 17 hours a day, 7 days a week, 7 months each year), and selection of social companions, it should not hold elephants. If you don’t want to believe the people who took part in the press conference, then take a look at the medical records that are posted at The records don’t lie. The elephants are suffering captivity-induced problems, including foot disorders and arthritis — conditions that are not found in the same way in the wild.

    And about that issue of dinosaurs… How about substituting blue whales. You’ll never see them in zoos, yet people care enough to want to save them.

  7. Karen J. Weaver on 05 May 2009 at 4:49 pm #

    I have a daycare and would like updates on meetings relative to the moving of the elephants or suggested advocacy of this.
    Thanks for your efforts,

    Karen J. Weaver

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