As someone who has long loved the Woodland Park Zoo elephants, I would like to share my thoughts [“Pang of guilt in Seattle over Chai’s death,” Opinion, Feb. 6]. The Woodland Park Zoo sent its elephants to another zoo to provide social interaction. We only had two elephants left at the zoo, which meant that if one of the elderly elephants died, only one would remain. Elephants are social beings, so solitude is not a good thing.
I was part of the group of zoo volunteers that attended board and City Council meetings, and court hearings during the agonizing fight to get our elephants to the beautiful Oklahoma City Zoo recommended by the experts at Woodland Park Zoo. Three of us decided to visit Oklahoma City last July to see for ourselves how the elephants were doing.
We were blown away by the facility. Although they had only been integrated with the herd for three weeks, we saw Bamboo and Chai interacting with the zoo’s herd as part of the family. The first thing that Bamboo did when she went outside was to throw hay on her own back. The other elephants ate hay off her back, took it out of her ear and even out of her mouth. Bamboo was completely comfortable with this interaction. We saw Chai go swimming with a 4-year-old calf, Malee.
All of the elephants seemed to enjoy the facilities and the care from the zookeepers in Oklahoma City. Although I have not been back to Oklahoma, my friend went back in the fall, and reported that Chai and Bamboo continued to look happy and healthy.
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It is sad for a beloved elephant to die, at a zoo or at a sanctuary or in the wild, but I believe that Chai was happy and enjoyed her time there being part of a larger family.
Sue Connell, Seattle, docent at Woodland Park Zoo