Inclement weather diverted the Woodland Park Zoo elephants, Bamboo and Chai, to San Diego, where they will rest at the zoo there before continuing their journey to Oklahoma City.
Woodland Park Zoo’s two elephants will stay at the San Diego Zoo after severe weather forced the elephants’ caravan to change its route on the way to their new home at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The elephants, Chai and Bamboo, departed Wednesday with zoo staffers and veterinarians for the 2,000 mile trip, which was expected to take about 40 hours. But because of a storm in Colorado and Wyoming — which would have extended the trip by a day — the caravan altered its travel plan in Salt Lake City.
For veterinary precautions and to give the elephants time to rest, officials made the decision to go to the San Diego Zoo, where the two Asian elephants will be in quarantine in an indoor facility. It’s unclear how long the elephants will remain in San Diego, said Woodland Park Zoo mammal curator Martin Ramirez in a news release.
“They have expert elephant and veterinary staff, the room to accommodate our elephants and the appropriate equipment on site to unload our elephants,” Ramirez said.
Related video: New home for WPZ elephantsAn inside look at the Oklahoma City Zoo, where Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo elephants Chai and Bamboo will soon join five others in a 3.95-acre habitat. Read more. (Steve Ringman and Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)
The planned route would have taken the caravan from Washington through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, according to the Woodland Park Zoo.
Chai, 36, and Bamboo, 48, were captured in the wild and lived in Seattle most of their lives. The caravan left Wednesday evening just hours after a federal court declined to block the move.
Alyne Fortgang, of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and Elephant Justice Project, said Friday night that she found the timing and the rerouting “suspicious.” The two groups advocated for sending the elephants to a sanctuary rather than to another zoo.
“I think they wanted to get the elephants out of town as soon as possible, and they knew that San Diego was an option if the weather wasn’t cooperating,” Fortgang said.
Woodland Park, however, said that the elephants left on Wednesday because the equipment was on site, the transportation consultant was available and the elephants were ready from their crate training. The Zoo said it checked the weather conditions, which they found favorable.
“A delay would not have served their best interests,” the Zoo said.