The Woodland Park Zoo’s handling of Chai and Bamboo’s departure is beyond disappointing.
The Woodland Park Zoo’s decision to close its elephant exhibit Wednesday and send Chai and Bamboo off to Oklahoma was a gut-punch for many of their human friends in Seattle.
The same zoo that benefitted richly from the popularity of the Asian elephants gave no public notice of when they would actually herd them into large crates for the 2,000-mile journey to the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Helicopters flew overhead to capture some photos of the departure, but zoo officials refused to allow members of the media access to the exhibit or to document the elephants’ last moments in the home where they have lived most of their lives.
Activists who wanted the elephants to be retired and sent to a sanctuary stood outside and chanted, “May you be free from pain. May you be free from suffering.”
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It was a heartbreaking scene, and unnecessarily so.
The zoo receives one-third of its funding from the city and operates on publicly owned property. Officials should be more transparent and forthcoming to all its visitors, whether it’s those who support this decision or those throughout the region who fought for years against elephant captivity.
A 2012 Seattle Times investigation revealed more than 100 failed artificial insemination attempts on 36-year-old Chai. The report also found that two elephants die for every one born in zoos.
Woodland Park Zoo CEO Deborah Jensen said, “We know this was the right decision for them.”
The right decision would have been to retire them to a sanctuary, not send them to a zoo.
Seattle no longer has elephants in captivity, but a federal lawsuit by the Elephant Justice Project is active. The people of this city will be watching to see how Chai and Bamboo fare in their new home.