Seattle, WA – The third meeting of the Woodland Park Zoo’s (Zoo) Elephant Task Force will be held on Wednesday, June 26th from 4 – 8 pm at the Seattle Central Public Library. The event is open to the public and local Seattle bloggers and the media are encouraged to attend.

Resulting from the criticism of the Zoo’s elephant program by elephant welfare advocates, two Seattle Times articles and two editorials calling for the release of the Zoo’s elephants to a sanctuary, a Task Force was convened by the Zoo’s Board of Directors.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, has serious concerns that the Zoo’s Task Force is more about damage control than a sincere evaluation of the elephant program with the possibility of recommending Bamboo, Chai and Watoto be retired to a sanctuary.  The Task Force was charged to review all options for the future of the elephants, yet only a minimal effort was made to include The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Furthermore, elephant welfare advocates have been given significantly less time to present to the Task Force in comparison to zoo-affiliated presenters.

Evidence of this biased evaluation are indicated by the following conflicts of interest and controlling of information:

  • Dr. Slinker, a Task Force and Zoo Board member handpicked the Health Review panelists most of whom are beholden the zoo industry. Dr. Slinker co-authored an op-ed in The Seattle Times in which he expressed that the elephants should stay at the zoo and astonishingly claimed that the Zoo’s elephants do not have foot problems. This is inconsistent with the Zoo’s own medical records. Foot health is a key factor in elephants’ suffering and is the main cause of death in elephants in zoos.
  • The Task Force members were given a tour of the elephant exhibit with no elephant welfare veterinarians or advocates included. In other words, there was no one to point out the problems with the tiny barn stalls or the inadequacy of the one acre yard in the 30-year old display.
  • All members of the Task Force were chosen by the Zoo Board and when asked to reveal the criteria for selection, the Zoo’s Task Force has been non-responsive. Five of the members are current or past Zoo Board members who are financially and personally invested in the Zoo.
  • Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants has asked that the Task Force members disclose their financial, personal and business relationships with the Zoo. The Zoo’s Task Force has been non responsive.
  • Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants contacted Dr. Phil Ensley, a veterinarian with 29 years of elephant experience at the San Diego Zoo who agreed to examine Bamboo, Chai and Watoto and review their medical records.  The Zoo’s Task Force has been non responsive.
  • Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants has provided thirteen national and international elephant experts to contribute to the Task Force’s work. The Zoo’s Task Force has been non responsive.
  • The Zoo Board cuts the pay checks to public relations firm, Cocker Fennessey, who controls the flow of information to the Zoo’s Task Force.

In summary, the Zoo’s control over every aspect of this effort is a detriment to impartiality and a detriment to Bamboo, Chai and Watoto’s fate.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants was founded in 2006 by Alyne Fortgang and Nancy Pennington, local Seattle residents who saw the suffering of Chai, Watoto and Bamboo and choose to advocate on their behalf. They have no financial stake in this issue.

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