Dear Mayor Murray and City Council Members:

Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) stands poised to transfer Chai and Bamboo to Oklahoma City Zoo (OCZ) within the next few days or weeks. This decision was taken without regard to the community’s wishes and in arrogant abrogation of your written request to the zoo that it consider a sanctuary option.

WPZ’s actions will condemn our elephants to live out their twilight years in a zoo whose elephant program belongs in the 1950’s. The blatant shortcomings of OCZ are appalling and numerous: a most inhospitable climate, a small and cramped exhibit space that will make effective quarantine difficult if not impossible should its male elephant, who has tested positive for antibodies to TB, develop the disease, the frequent close confinement of elephants inside the barn in spaces antithetical to their natural needs, especially during cold weather, the harassment of their elephants through regular performances of circus-style tricks, the close proximity of a loud rock amphitheater adjacent to the elephant exhibit, and the cruel use of electric prods during the labor and delivery of their most recent elephant calf.

This should not be Chai and Bamboo’s fate.

Sri at St. Louis Zoo

Sri at the St. Louis Zoo, sent there by WPZ

The City of Seattle reserved powers to itself in the Management Agreement with WPZ to weigh in and take part in all animal disposition decisions. Section 15.3 specifically provides that animal disposition decisions are subject to City policy. Stoel Rives, one of Seattle’s finest law firms and wholly independent of the politics of this controversy, agrees:

Under Section 15.3 of the 2001 Operating and Management Agreement, WPZS may dispose of Zoo Animals, but any such disposition must comply with “existing and any adopted . . . disposition policies approved by the City.” We understand this language as giving the City authority to adopt policies regarding disposition of the elephants that WPZS must follow.

This means that WPZ can go forward with its cruel plan only if you, our elected officials, fail to stop it.

Your constituents have clearly shown they want our elephants retired to a warm spacious sanctuary where management is based entirely upon on the elephants’ needs with no pandering to a controlling zoo industry.

Chai in barn stall


This could be your last opportunity to champion the community’s conscience and the opinions of elephant experts worldwide. Failure to act, when the tools to correct this great injustice are in your hands and when the elephants need you the most, will greatly distress the large Seattle community that has shown how much it cares for Chai and Bamboo and their future.

A draft resolution is attached. We call on you to take all action necessary to exercise your authority under the Management Agreement, to champion our rightful place in the vanguard of progressive cities, and to save our elephants from a cruel end.

Yours sincerely,
Lisa Kane, JD
Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

3 Responses to “Open Letter to City Council and Mayor on behalf of your constituents”

  1. Olivia on 06 Apr 2015 at 5:58 pm #

    You would rather them go to a place in california that is running rampant with TB and has no barn or enclosure. And you had no problem with them staying at a zoo that had such poor medical care that they euthanized an elephant for not being able to stand instead of having preventative treatment and any kind of alternative battle for its life. Not to mention the 6 year old that died from herpes before they even knew that it had herpes. If the elephants went to California they would not have anywhere to live being that they would have to be kept in quarantine from the TB elephants. And if they never got the TB under control this would be permanent. Elephants are social creatures and form lasting bonds. If your older elephant dies before they assimilate with new friends the younger one will suffer deeply. Aside from everything I have said OKC zoo completely rebuilt its elephant habitat, has state of the art MEDICAL care which is just as important as space. It has 4 acres of GRASS not dirt like they currently have. Waterfalls, a river, and interaction with people. They are NEVER forced to perform. IN fact many times the elephants play on their playground where they “perform” when there is nobody in the pen with them. The UTMOST IMPORTANT thing to consider is that in OKC elephant history, the elephants have NEVER been sick. They have preventative care and regular check ups. OKC would never have missed a fatal case of Herpes! They would have never just given up on an older elephant because they couldn’t stand. They would have investigated and also explained what happened. OKC doesn’t hide anything. You can see into their barn. They filmed the birth of the new baby. They shared it and explained why the mama had to have cuffs on her ankles. It was very sad to watch an elephant not be able to give birth naturally but these animals have ALWAYS lived in a ZOO with people around them. Elephants need to remain in situations that they are use to. The climate change is going to be an adjustment but is no way a factor that should send them to a sick field without medical care. Clearly Seattle doesn’t know what it means to take care of elephants when they have watched their herd of four have two die off with no sorrow or publicity telling them they were wrong etc. Now that they admit that they cannot care for them and find a proper home..NOW you want to complain? And you prefer sending them to a sick field with no barn, or a place in TN that is unsure of their own future? This is a pathetic and disgusting stunt. I think that Seattle is petty and throwing a tantrum just like they did when OKC acquired their basketball team and also took better care of said team than Seattle did! SHAME ON YOU! Get over yourselves and stop judging something you have never seen in person and clearly do not care enough about if you couldn’t even bring trouble to the zoo when they neglected and killed 2 of their ENDANGERED elephants previously. This is the most responsible decision that this zoo has made.

  2. Lauren Russel on 16 May 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    I sit here, a guest of family members in Oklahoma, watching tornado warnings going out with these storm systems heading toward Oklahoma City where the Zoo is. There are tornados on the ground as I write this. The elephants just arrived here at 3 am on Wednesday. I am incredulous that the small-minded people in Seattle, where I live, decided this was a better place to send these creatures. This is an unbelievably short-sighted decision by the Woodland Park Zoo, which I will never support again, and the City of Seattle.

  3. Dianna Eversole on 18 May 2015 at 12:48 am #

    I live close to Seattle and have visited Woodland Park Zoo in the past, but, as with Lauren Russel, will not support them or visit it again because of their poor decision to send their two elephants to the Oklahoma City Zoo in spite of efforts to find better sanctuary for them by many officials and animal supporters including Dr. Jane Goodall. Their transport was long and traumatizing enough and to have them subjected to a state that suffers annual wild weather and tornadoes is a turn to the worse kind of consideration for them. Eyes will continue to follow their care and conditions and OKC Zoo will be scrutinized by friends of the elephants so that their lives are not put in jeopardy.

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