Rest In Peace Watoto 1969 – 2014
Rest In Peace Hansa 2001 – 2007
Rest In Peace Chai 1979 – 2016
Elephants are peaceful, migratory animals who are genetically wired to travel great distances. They move not only for food and water but also for exercise, social encounters and novel experiences. Female elephants are long lived, highly intelligent, retain lifelong memories, possess deep feelings and have a complex family and social life—all of which are denied to them by being confined in a zoo environment. Nothing in the elephants’ 40 million years of evolution has prepared them for the impoverished and harmful environment found in zoos.
Bamboo and Chai live in what Scientific American calls: “tortu[r]ous conditions [which] inflict serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals.” Woodland Park Zoo’s management and Board of Directors seem satisfied to do little to improve their quality of life, despite the untimely death of Watoto at the relatively young age of 45, and the death of young Hansa at the age of six.
More than ever these two intelligent, sentient beings deserve a dignified retirement on a vast tract of land, in a warmer climate that can only be provided by a sanctuary—anything less diminishes our humanity.
Is it humane to keep elephants at Woodland Park Zoo?
Lack of Space – Cruel confinement
- Bamboo and Chai share one acre that is divided into 5 pens. Until Watoto’s death, Bamboo and Watoto had to always be separated due to incompatibility, effectively confining them to a fraction of an acre outdoors. The yard, barn and their sight line have not changed since the exhibit was designed in 1986 exacerbating the tedium.
- Indoors, the elephants are locked in a cage in the barn for 16–17 hours a day for over half of the year due to Seattle’s wet and cold climate. When Watoto was alive, either she or Bamboo was locked in solitary confinement.
- Bamboo and Chai are not bonded with each other. They don’t touch or lean against each other, or engage in gestures of social interaction; Bamboo bullies Chai.
Irresponsible breeding program
- The majority of young Asian elephants who have contracted the herpes virus have died.
- Hansa died of an elephant herpes virus that researchers and the zoo agree is native only to African elephants. The only African elephant Hansa was exposed to during her lifetime was the Zoo’s sole African elephant, Watoto.
- AZA guidelines state that Asian and African elephants should not be housed together because of the risk of herpes.
- Watoto tested positive for herpes in May, 2008. A year later the Zoo claimed this was a false positive.
- WPZ had no way to keep young Hansa from being exposed to the herpes virus through Watoto, Bamboo or her own mother, Chai.
- WPZ has no infection control in place.
- There is no cure for EEHV.
- The herpes virus attacks the blood vessels causing massive internal hemorrhaging which is horrifically painful.
- Chai endured 112 highly invasive artificial insemination procedures none of which resulted in a live birth. She has had multiple miscarriages.
- The Zoo’s 5-year plan (March, 2014) calls for adding elephants and to continue breeding without adding space.
- Bamboo and Chai have chronic foot infections; foot disease is the leading cause of death in elephants in zoos.
- Bamboo and Chai suffer from arthritis from standing on hard substrates and lack of movement.
- Watoto suffered from arthritis and lameness.
- The elephants suffer from bouts of painful colic.
- The elephants get no exercise which could lead to heart disease.
- They suffer chronic and painful skin problems
Abnormal stereotypic behavior
- All of the Zoo’s elephants display neurotic repetitive behaviors – outward signs of trauma, stress and crushing boredom.
- Bamboo paces and swivels her head.
- Chai paces on her front legs while bobbing her head.
- Watoto repetitively paced and swayed.
History of traumas
- The elephants endured harsh training methods in the past including block and tackle and being hit into compliance with the sharp-pointed bullhook.
- They were chained in place for 16 – 17 hours a day in the late 80’s through early 90’s.
- Chai was beaten for up to 2 ½ hours at Dickerson Park Zoo where she was sent to breed (for which that zoo was fined by the USDA).
- In 2002 Sri was sent away after 21 years at WPZ to St. Louis Zoo. At SLZ, she became the 7th elephant on 1.5 acres. SLZ had two elephants known to have TB. Sri became pregnant, the fetus died in utero. She still carries the dead fetus since 2005.
- In 2005 Bamboo was sent away from the only home and family she knew for 38 years (she was returned).
- In 2007, Chai’s 6 year old daughter, Hansa, died at her feet from the painful herpes virus—in a pool of diarrhea.
- They are deprived of the ability to engage in natural elephant behaviors. They have no access to a living tree in their yard.
- The elephants live in an inhumane amount of space.
Learning about elephants and conservation can be accomplished without their suffering — 66% of Seattleites agree.
Retiring the elephants is the ethical and humane decision of an enlightened zoo, government, and society.