Bamboo, an elephant that was once at the center of controversy between animal welfare activists and Woodland Park Zoo, has died.

The 56-year-old Asian elephant was euthanized Tuesday at the Oklahoma City Zoo after she displayed mobility and age-related issues, according to the zoo.

Bamboo and another elephant, Chai, were moved from Woodland Park Zoo to Oklahoma City in 2015 after an extensive effort by activists with the Elephant Justice Project and Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants to block the move.

Activists, who advocated for the pachyderms to be retired to a sanctuary for nearly a decade, had appealed to then-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, city council members and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chai died in 2016 at the Oklahoma City Zoo at age 37.

Woodland Park Zoo opted to close its elephant exhibit in 2014 after a third elephant named Watoto, 45, was euthanized. A 2012 Seattle Times investigation found that zoos efforts to preserve elephants have largely failed both in Seattle and nationally, and that the infant-mortality rate for elephants in zoos is almost triple the rate in the wild.

According to the Oklahoma City Zoo, Bamboo lived longer than the average life expectancy for Asian elephants in captivity, which is 47, and was the oldest elephant in her herd.


Since 2019, the zoo said Bamboo had been on a daily geriatric care program including medical and physical therapy treatment for arthritis. In recent weeks, caretakers observed the elephant’s right rear leg “buckle,” forcing her to catch herself on habitat walls with greater frequency.

“Bamboo was a wonderful elephant, and it was an honor to care for her throughout her senior years,” said Oklahoma City Zoo curator Rachel Emory in a news release. “Though this decision was extremely difficult we did not want Bamboo to experience any pain or suffering and together, as a team, decided it was time to say goodbye.”

Caretakers brought the entire elephant herd together Tuesday morning inside the barn, where Bamboo passed away, to allow them time to be near her.

As recently as April, the organization Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants had requested that the Oklahoma City Zoo transfer Bamboo to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.

On Tuesday, the organization wrote on Facebook “Bamboo is free … She was a tough cookie. May she rest in peace which has finally come.”