Woodland Park Zoo’s plan for the elephant program sadly lacks any vision or compassion for the elephants held captive in Seattle.  But what would one expect when the plan was based on the biased Task Force; a zoo-selected panel that was intended to reach the results we got in the Zoo’s lack-of-vision plan.

The Zoo’s plan is a complete rejection of science.  Decades of research has shown that the earth’s largest land mammal travels great distances, are intelligent problem solvers and care deeply for their family and companions. About elephants living in zoo displays, The Scientific American Analysis found: “These tortuous conditions inflict serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals.”  “…captive breeding programs should be terminated.”

The Zoo’s decision to ignore science is clear. The Seattle Times interview with Deborah Jensen, President of Woodland Park Zoo revealed this:

One elephant (Watoto) is being sent away and the Zoo hopes that two elephants will be added plus a baby through breeding.  So if their plan comes to fruition, the display will hold 5 elephants who will effectively have less space in the already inadequate 1 acre. Their indoor stall will be less than the human equivalent of the space prisoners had in Alcatraz.

The Zoo’s 5-year plan calls for improvements to the yard. They will add wind/rain shelters which supports our claim that this climate is unsuitable for elephants which now forces them into a cage-like stall up to 17 hours a day for over half of the year. They will add timed feeders.  Is this to reduce the keepers’ hours and effectively reduce keeper interaction which will further isolate these social animals?  In the 8 years Friends has been criticizing the Zoo about its elephant program, the improved “complexity” of the yard has been little more than the addition of a few boomer balls and dead logs. The closed-in sightline for these intelligent, far-ranging animals hasn’t changed since 1989 — and will stay the same until they die at the zoo.

The meager amount of $1.5 – $3 million dollars over 5 years, which includes funding conservation efforts, will do very little to improve the quality of life of any elephants living in this tiny, land-locked display.  San Diego and LA Zoo spent over $42 million to improve their exhibits.  The National Zoo in Washington D.C spent $52 million.

The Zoo cites the horrific decimation and suffering of elephants in the wild as justification for causing ours to suffer. Their mantra that one needs to see an elephant in order to learn about them and to act to conserve them is not supported by the community they serve. 66% of Seattleites in a recent survey said people can learn about elephants and their conservation via an exhibit that does not have live elephants. The survey also showed that 97% of Seattleites knew about elephant poaching. They learned about this crisis from varied sources but not from the Zoo – which would have been the obvious answer.  We contend that people can be inspired to contribute to poaching efforts via a state-of-the-art, non-live exhibit than by seeing a dysfunctional elephant swaying, pacing and head bobbing.

Woodland Park Zoo’s insignificant and insincere commitment to the elephants they hold captive will do little to alleviate their tedium, and the unhealthy physical and psychological conditions from which they suffer.

Please express your outrage. Write to our politicians and Zoo asking that our elephants be retired to a sanctuary in a warmer climate with a vast amount of space: http://www.freewpzelephants.org/you-can-help/

2 Responses to “Response to the Zoo’s captive elephant plan”

  1. rebecca johnson on 24 Aug 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Dear Zoo and public servants of Seattle and Washington state: Please do the RIght Thing and release the two remaining elephants to a sanctuary that can provide the right climate and environment immediately. Do the right thing. Let them go.


  2. Abigail Mott on 24 Aug 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    Thank you, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, for your activism and clear articulation of the problems facing captive elephants, and of course, in particular, Chai, Bamboo and Watoto. And I think you’re right that even if WPZ invested more than the 1.5 million it’s allocated for an “improved” and expanded elephant exhibit, such an exhibit would still be far too small and insufficient on multiple levels; it would still be in the wrong climate; the elephants would still be subject to repeated and ineffectual, invasive artificial inseminations, chronic isolation, boredom, a total lack of natural vegetation to graze on, confinement-induced chronic illness, confinement-induced mental disorders, foot disease caused by excessively hard substrates, and a likely premature death with a lie for an explanation as to its cause, as was the case with Watoto (no, 45-year old, healthy elephants do not just collapse out of nowhere, but the lame excuse is noted, WPZ). But with enough activism, I am hoping that one day Seattle can leave its barbarism behind and give Woodland Park Zoo the dignity to finally explain to the public why it was so important to close its elephant exhibit for good. Now that’s something the public and all the animal-loving children who patronize the zoo can feel truly happy to learn about. Thank you, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.

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