Chai and Bamboo reached Oklahoma City early Wednesday, the Woodland Park Zoo announced.
UPDATE, Wednesday, 6 a.m. | Asian elephants Bamboo and Chai safely arrived at the Oklahoma City Zoo about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
“We’re pleased to report that Bamboo and Chai remained bright, alert and in good condition throughout the road trip,” said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator who was part of the staff accompanying the elephants.
“We are excited to have these two new members join our family,” said Dwight Lawson, the OKC Zoo’s executive director. The addition of Bamboo, 48, and Chai, 36, brings the OKC Zoo’s elephant herd to seven.
The Seattle elephants will be in quarantine for 30 days, which is standard procedure, according to the OKC Zoo.
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ORIGINAL STORY | Elephants Chai and Bamboo left their temporary home in San Diego on Monday night for Oklahoma City, the Woodland Park Zoo announced early Tuesday in a news release.
The animals departed Seattle on April 15, but storms along the planned route to Oklahoma City stalled their journey and forced a detour to the San Diego Zoo. The delay also allowed another legal attempt by activists to block their transport.
A federal judge last week denied that attempt, clearing the way for Chai, 36, and Bamboo, 48 to leave San Diego and head east.
Last week, Alyne Fortgang, of the Seattle-based Elephant Justice Project, said she was “profoundly disappointed” and concerned about high temperatures along the route the animals will take to their new home at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The Seattle zoo said the elephants are traveling in separate crates on two flatbed trucks. Each crate is equipped with heating and evaporative cooling units for the 1,300-mile trip across the desert Southwest.
The zoo expects the trip to take 25 to 30 hours, with the caravan stopping about every three hours to check on the animals. Closed circuit cameras will also allow constant monitoring.
Woodland Park contacted zoos along the route, to see if they could provide temporary shelter in case the animals tire or the convoy is delayed.
Among those that agreed to help was the zoo in Albuquerque, N.M., where a five-year-old Asian elephant named Daizy died last week from a type of herpes infection that’s particularly deadly to young animals.
Emails obtained through a public-records request show that Woodland Park contacted ABQ BioPark on April 26 and asked them to have forklifts and a crane on hand in case they needed to lift the elephant crates.
Though the elephants are gone from Seattle, fallout lingers from years of bitter debate over whether the world’s largest land mammal should be held in zoos, and whether Chai and Bamboo would be better off in a sanctuary or another zoo.
Activists argued the animals deserved to “retire” to a California sanctuary after enduring decades of captivity and cramped quarters. Woodland Park officials insist the animals will thrive in Oklahoma City, which has a multigenerational herd for them to socialize with.
On Tuesday, a recently formed group called Children Helping Elephants announced it has gathered more than 100,000 signatures on a petition advocating sanctuary for the Seattle elephants.
The group is also calling for a boycott of Woodland Park Zoo.
“Children Helping Elephants says that elephants suffer in captivity and that having elephants in zoos undermines conservation efforts and sends the wrong message to our children,” said a statement from the group.