Rest In Peace Watoto 1969 – 2014
Rest In Peace Hansa 2001 – 2007

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants is committed to the retirement of the two surviving elephants at Woodland Park Zoo to PAWS sanctuary—NOT to another zoo. A Zoo environment deprives the elephants of space, social interaction, and mental stimulation causing their physical and psychological deterioration.

Watoto kept in solitary confinement

Watoto kept in solitary confinement

Watoto, WPZ’s only African elephant, died August 22, 2014 at the relatively young age of 45. Hansa, daughter of Asian elephant Chai, died from a deadly Herpes virus in 2007 at only six years old. Chai and Bamboo, the Zoo’s two remaining Asian elephants desperately need sanctuary to heal from the traumas of zoo confinement. Living in a sanctuary with autonomy over their lives and roaming vast spaces will give them the opportunity to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

Bamboo, Chai and Watoto, were babies when they were taken from their mothers with whom they should have spent their entire lives. They were crated up and shipped to Seattle to be put on display. Their world became a fraction of an acre outdoors and prolonged confinement in a barren cage in the barn. That was the first of many traumas—absent of maternal protection—that they have endured in their decades in Seattle.

Scientific American, the nation’s gold standard for rigorous, independent scholarship, published a meta-review of research on elephant cognition and sociality in February 2014 calling on U.S. Zoos to end captive breeding and the exhibition of elephants: “if zoos really have the animals’ best interests at heart, they would close their elephant exhibits.” The next month, their Editorial Board, described zoo environments like WPZ’s as “torturous conditions [that] inflict serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals.

Bamboo suffering from foot problems

Bamboo suffering from foot problems

Dr. Jane Goodall stated:

While many zoos do an excellent job of caring for wild animals and contributing to their conservation, there are some species, like elephants, which will always be unsuited to zoo environments.”

Bamboo and Chai suffer from arthritis, colic, painful skin ailments, lameness and chronic foot infections—all captivity-induced ailments many of which are never seen in the wild. Until Watoto’s death, she suffered from all of the same maladies.

Bamboo and Chai exhibit abnormal repetitive stereotypical behaviors such as pacing, head bobbing and swaying. These behaviors are the mind’s way of coping with trauma, stress and crushing boredom.  Watoto paced and swayed. Even little Hansa was already showing stereotypical behavior.

Dr. Joyce Poole, who has studied elephants for over 40 years said:

In over 34,000 sightings of elephants [in the wild] not one elephant has been seen swaying rhythmically back and forth or showing other neurotic behavior— ultimately caused by lack of space.”

Elephants at a sanctuary Elephants at a sanctuary

We believe, as do 66% of Seattleites that people can learn about elephants and their conservation from a non-live elephant exhibit. Seattle is perfectly positioned to lead the way with an innovative, educational experience that is also fun. Woodland Park Zoo has a unique opportunity to be leaders in compassion and teach our children an incredible lesson in science by releasing Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary.

Allowing the elephants to live out their lives at a sanctuary is the ethical and humane decision of an enlightened zoo, government, and community.

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