Bamboo Bamboo


Bamboo came to Seattle from Thailand as a frightened one-year-old baby Asian elephant in 1968. She grew into a gentle adult, docile enough to be walked on zoo grounds and touched by zoo visitors. In the late 80’s, Bamboo became aggressive toward handlers, during a period of intense physical punishment and all-night chaining. After the birth of a baby elephant in 2001, Bamboo was put into indoor solitary confinement for weeks and began pacing in constant counter-clockwise circles and shaking her head. She was not trusted with the baby for the first few years after her birth.

Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) transfered Bamboo in August 2005 to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) in Tacoma, another small habitat zoo which specializes in “troubled” elephants, where she paced in circles and shook her head almost constantly. Zoo officials repeatedly described Bamboo as being “happy and healthy” during this time.

After nine months of being unable to integrate her with the other elephants at PDZA, they sent Bamboo back to WPZ, where she must now been kept separated from African elephant, Watoto. Like all the elephants at WPZ, Bamboo spends only a few hours a day outside. Her “stereotypic” repetitive pacing and head-shaking behavior has continued at WPZ.

We are working to have Bamboo moved to a place where she can truly heal: The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) in Tennessee. TES has generously offered to transport and care for Bamboo at its own expense.

5 Responses to “Bamboo’s Story”

  1. Joshua on 01 Sep 2010 at 1:29 am #

    I agree with what is written. I think it is disgraceful about what happened. The Zoo claims that Bamboo is naturally moody, aggressive, and the way she is. That’s not true at all. It is because a new team of handlers came in the 80’s and introduced harsh management methods. I think it is accurate to say that the only thing healthy about Bamboo is her weight, at around 9,000 pounds.
    I heard Bamboo no longer gets along with Watoto. Is it because Watoto has bullied her and Bamboo no longer tolerates this? Please reply back! Thanks.

  2. Joshua on 02 Sep 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    Is it true that Watoto and Bamboo do not get along? I thought they used to.

    I believe that no facilities should keep Asian and African elephants together. The African elephant can transmit its dormant form of the herpes virus to the Asian elephant, which will be infected with a fatal form of the virus. Calves are very vulnerable to the herpes virus. Hansa died of this virus, and I suspect that Watoto (I blame the staff, not Watoto) passed on the herpes virus.

  3. M. A. Marian on 12 Mar 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    I believe that the elephants at the zoo are loved by their keepers – keepers aren’t paid much, so if not for the money, I can only really believe that the keepers do their jobs because they love the elephants. The elephants are now handled under protected contact, which is a step in the right direction.

    The zoo conditions are definitely inadequate, but I think that the care the staff gives the elephants is satisfactory.

  4. J.B. White on 17 Mar 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    The elephants are really loved at the zoo. Both animal rights activists and the zoo keepers have their hearts in the right places. It’s the zoo officials to blame for the elephants’ living conditions. I remember that the former zoo CEO left because the city or the zoo (either one) did not want to fund for a better elephant exhibit.

  5. Alana Petila on 14 Apr 2012 at 9:01 am #

    I believe the elephants are loved and taken care of at the zoo. When you see the keepers feeding them and showing them to audiences, you can tell they are happy and stimulated. At least at the zoo, they are loved, have plenty of food and water, have good medical care, and choose to socialize with other elephants or keepers instead (as in the case of Dulary at the Philadelphia Zoo). Also, in the wild elephants may starve and get sick without good medical care and suffer, too. They also have no choice but to live together and form bonds for survival.

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