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Woodland Park Zoo to phase out elephant program; relocate 2 remaining elephants

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African elephant Watoto , which died recently, watches Asian elephant Chai at play. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

African elephant Watoto , which died recently, watches Asian elephant Chai at play. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

SEATTLE — The Woodland Park Zoo announced it will phase out its elephant program and relocate the remaining two elephants currently residing at the zoo.

The zoo came to the decision after several months of working to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force, Woodland Park Zoo officials said Wednesday, realizing that adding to the herd of two aging elephants is not realistic.

“We remain committed to putting the welfare of our elephants first,” Woodland Park Zoo’s President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen said. “It can be best accomplished by relocating them to another accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums facility that is held to exemplary standards of care.”

The two remaining elephants — 47-year-old Bamboo and 35-year-old Chai — will be relocated together, officials said. Officials have not yet identified their new home, but expect them to be moved in 2015.

Approximately 139 Asian elephants currently live in AZA institutions, zoo officials said.

The Elephant Task Force–a panel of local community representatives, scientists and animal care professionals– conducted an external review of the zoo’s elephant program in 2013.

The zoo’s elephant exhibit and the welfare of the animals has come under fire in recent years, most recently with the death of Watoto — a 45-year-old African elephant — on Aug. 22.

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10 comments

  • carol guilbault

    don’t be fouled by this, they are not going to a sanctuary, they are being moved to another Zoo :( or should I say another prison

  • Brenda Szasz

    After very much study and controversy, we sent our Toronto elephants to PAWS sanctuary in California. It was the BEST decision we ever made for Toka, Thika and Iringa. Chai and Bamboo’s health problems will continue to worsen in ANY AZA zoo – only a true sanctuary can give them the conditions that foster and improve their health, and the quality of their lives. We rejoice every day to see our girls enjoying trees and long grass and limitless walks – it is a paradise for creatures who have lived their lives on barren concrete and hard pack. I hope that the city has a hand in setting the actual criteria for Chai and Bamboo’s re-location, and don’t accept blanket assurances from the zoo industry.

  • Courtney Scott

    Congratulations to all the hard working activists in Seattle who have made this first step possible. Now WPZ needs to be convinced to send the elephants to sanctuary, not to another zoo, which will also not be able to adequately provide for the mental and physical health of these elephants. Bamboo and Chai need acres and acres of space in a climate that is better suited to their nature, warmer and dryer. I am sorry they have to go through another cold, wet winter in Seattle, where they will be cooped up in a tiny barn for hours and days at a time.

  • Shana Kelly

    While I commend WPZ for FINALLY acknowledging that this is not an appropriate environment for these amazing animals, WPZ continues to treat these animals as commodities. The plan is to sell Bamboo and Chai to another zoo rather than send them to a sanctuary where they can live out their lives able to move about in a less confined space. Don’t let them fool you with the appearance, saying they will do better for these animals, commend them when they actually DO better for these animals by surrendering them to a sanctuary! Until then, our family boycott of the zoo remains!

  • Michelle Inama

    The AZA is an umbrella for business – first and foremost concerned about the bottom line, not about the health and well being of the animals . It’s time we phased out zoos and aquariums and recognize that other sentient beings have the same right to dignity and freedom as we do and are not commodities to do with as we please. Send Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary where they come first, not ticket sales.