Dear Woodland Park Zoological Board Member,

We commend the Woodland Park Zoological Board for having the good judgment and estimable intentions in forming the Elephant Task Force.  We assume you want this investigation to be impartial and to keep the elephants’ quality of life paramount.

However, that’s not what the Board, the public or City Council are getting.

There are a few independent voices on the Task Force but most members are personally, financially or professionally invested in the Zoo—a clear conflict of interest. Advising the Task Force on the elephants’ health and the zoo’s breeding practices is a Health Panel. The importance of this Health Panel cannot be overstated, since the Task Force will rely heavily on its findings in the report it makes to the Board.

The Health Panel was handpicked by Dr. Bryan Slinker who is a Task Force and Zoo Board member, and who has made his opinion public in a Seattle Times op-ed that the elephants should stay at the zoo and that they do not have foot problems, despite the fact that the zoo’s own medical records document chronic foot problems. Five of the six Health Panelists are zoo industry insiders.  Janine Brown is the architect of the AZA’s breeding program.

At the June 26th Task Force meeting, Dr. Slinker attempted to explain away the 112 highly invasive artificial insemination procedures on Chai (documented by The Seattle Times) by saying it was really “only” 20 times because that’s how many times she cycled.  (1:34:22 at the June 26th meeting.)  Dr. Slinker’s role in the Task Force is a flagrant conflict of interest.

It is clear the Task Force’s report will be met by the public and media with deserved skepticism.We are asking you to remedy this.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants has recommended that Dr. Phil Ensley be invited to examine the elephants and their medical records.  Dr. Ensley has 29 years of experience as an elephant veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Wildlife Park.  Without an independent expert contributing to the Task Force’s investigations, their report will have little credibility.

On June 4th, 2013, we provided the Task Force with thirteen elephant experts—some world renowned— such as Dr. Joyce Poole and Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick who have offered to present an alternative perspective from the zoo industry speakers who have dominated the conversation.  Not one has been invited.

We are looking to you to advise the Task Force about the consequence of not including experts independent of the zoo industry.


Alyne Fortgang
Co-founder, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

Cc: City Council
Seattle Times
Media at large
Task Force co-chairs,

One Response to “Letter: Task Force needs objective experts outside zoo industry or report will have no credibility”

  1. Bridgit M. Sims on 28 Aug 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    I am ashamed of my Zoo, and of the people who make these cruel decisions regarding their elephant children.

    Bridgit Sims

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