Jane Goodall has asked that her statements about Seattle’s elephants be disregarded until her staff can weigh the pros and cons of sending the animals to a sanctuary or the Oklahoma City Zoo.
For a third time, esteemed conservationist Jane Goodall has weighed in on the controversy over Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants.
Goodall issued a statement Thursday admitting that her two previous statements were made before she and her staff had fully weighed the pros and cons of a sanctuary versus the Oklahoma City Zoo as the animals’ new home.
Since first coming out in favor of a sanctuary, then switching her position to say the Oklahoma Zoo would be best, Goodall wrote that she has been contacted by many people advocating for one side or the other.
“It has become obvious to me that I need to find out more about the two options, and I have asked one of my team to look into the situation and to brief me fully …,” she wrote.
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“Clearly I should have done this before making any statement — as it is I have only added to the confusion.”
In the meantime, Goodall asked that her previous statements not be used for “any purpose whatsoever.”
But both of Goodall’s statements have already been cited in news releases and legal documents in the longstanding battle between Woodland Park Zoo and the Elephant Justice Project over the elephants’ fate.
The Elephant Justice Project, which wants the two aging females retired to the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in California, failed in several previous attempts to persuade a court to block the move to Oklahoma City. Hours after the last of those motions was denied on April 15, Woodland Park loaded the elephants into crates and set out for Oklahoma City.
But bad weather forced a detour from the planned route through Wyoming. When it appeared 48-year-old Bamboo was tiring, zoo staff opted to divert to the San Diego Zoo, which has facilities to house the animals temporarily.
Activists filed another injunction request, claiming that the move was rushed and put the elephants at risk. Arguing that the 1,300-mile trip from San Diego to Oklahoma City would be too stressful, they asked a U.S. District Court judge to instead order the animals shipped to the sanctuary near Sacramento, less than 500 miles away.
In its response to the claims, Woodland Park and its staff said the elephants were closely monitored throughout the 45-hour trip to San Diego, and that both were healthy. Zoo staff also said that the move was planned long in advance and not rushed.
Activists touted Goodall’s initial statement, issued April 23, in which she said that she feels “great sadness” seeing elephants in zoos, and that the PAWS sanctuary offered ideal conditions for 36-year-old Chai and 48-year-old Bamboo.
But last week, Goodall backtracked and said that she was now convinced the Oklahoma City Zoo was best, because it offers a multigenerational herd for the elephants to socialize with. Woodland Park quoted that statement in its legal filings.
A decision on the injunction is expected by Friday. Woodland Park’s legal filings say the elephants will be moved to Oklahoma City the week of May 11.