Seattle city leaders must save elephants Bamboo and Chai from being sent to another zoo.
Chai and Bamboo are headed to the Sooner State, if a misguided decision by The Woodland Park Zoo board stands. By choosing to send its elephants to another zoo in Oklahoma City, the board ignored the preference for sanctuary by Mayor Ed Murray, a majority of the Seattle City Council and many of this region’s animal-rights supporters.
Zoo officials should reconsider shipping Chai and Bamboo into the middle of Tornado Alley, a region with much more volatile and extreme weather than Seattle. Yet, the zoo is already preparing the two Asian elephants for a 2,000-mile, 40-hour journey in giant crates.
The move could happen in just a few weeks.
This zoo board’s unilateral decision dismisses more humane alternatives. City leaders, especially Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, had suggested the zoo consider sending the elephants to a sanctuary where they would not be on display. The Northern California-based Performing Animal Welfare Society is willing to make space. The zoo rejected the idea, citing the presence of tuberculosis in certain sanctuaries. The board’s announcement conveniently left out a history of disease and other ailments in zoo settings.
Zoo board members and others view Chai and Bamboo as poster animals for elephant conservation. But, at the ages of 36 and 48, these cherished creatures deserve to retire from the performance life.
The Woodland Park Zoo operates on public land and continues to receive one-third of its funding from taxpayers. According to City Attorney Pete Holmes’ legal opinion, obtained by KUOW Public Radio, the city cannot “force” the zoo’s decision on the elephants by withholding funds. However, the city can “condition future funds — for example, future levy money or funds from the newly created Metropolitan Parks District — on what happens with the elephants.”
The city council is the park district board. Its members have the power to stand up to the Woodland Park Zoo for Chai and Bamboo.
Now councilmembers, and the candidates who are challenging them for election, just need to find the will.