Of Interest:

[Video] PAWS vs Another Zoo: Where can Bamboo and Chai thrive?

PAWS sanctuary or Oklahoma City Zoo? A chart.

What you can do


Press Release: Oklahoma City Zoo tops list as worst Zoo in U.S.


Seattle, WA (January 11, 2017) – In Defense of Animals chose The Oklahoma City Zoo (OKC Zoo) as the worst zoo for elephants in the United States in 2016. OKC Zoo earned the top spot based on its miserable record of elephant disease, aggression and premature deaths—as well as its irresponsible elephant breeding program.

In 2015, OKC Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) rejected the will of Seattle’s residents, City Council and Mayor when Bamboo and Chai were moved to OKC Zoo instead of an accredited sanctuary. Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants (“Friends”) warned OKC Zoo about Bamboo’s aggressive history and incompatibility with other elephants, as well as Bamboo and Chai’s exposure to the to the deadly herpes virus that killed Hansa, a young calf at WPZ.

Soon after Chai and Bamboo’s arrival at OKC Zoo in 2015, Malee (4-years-old) died from the same strain of Elephant Herpes Virus Chai suffered from just months earlier. Yet OKC Zoo continued with plans to artificially inseminate Chandra a month later. Achara (2-years-old) became ill with the virus in September 2016 but survived and three months later Chandra was again artificially inseminated. This disease causes the major organs to hemorrhage resulting in a horrifically painful illness and often death. Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder of Friends says, “Continuing to breed at this zoo virtually ensures suffering and death—it’s unethical and must stop immediately.”

Chai died only eight months after arriving at OKC Zoo allegedly due to substandard health care and negligence. She wasted away, rapidly losing 1,000 pounds, and suffered from an infection in her bloodstream likely caused by 25 puss-filled abscesses—all of which went untreated.

Now Bamboo, languishes at OKC Zoo, an aggressor and victim. The other elephants at the zoo have repeatedly attacked Bamboo, injuring various parts of her body including her trunk and one of the bites amputated the end of her tail. In turn, Bamboo attacked others including baby Achara and has tried to harm the keepers numerous times. Fortgang adds, “Trapped within a cramped hot-wired yard there is no ability to flee from an attack causing an unhealthy and dangerous situation.”

Given Bamboo’s chronic health issues and incompatibility with the other elephants, her continued residence at OKC Zoo has little rationale. It is not too late for OKC Zoo to do the right thing by allowing her to heal and live in peace at an accredited elephant sanctuary.

In Defense of Animals’ 2016 Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list: http://www.idausa.org/campaign/elephants/10-worst-zoos-2016/

YouTube Preview Image
Video obtained through Oklahoma Open Records.

Press Release: USDA Complaint Urges Investigation into Battered Elephant at Oklahoma City Zoo

Seattle, WA (September 21, 2016) – Today, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants (Friends), a Seattle elephant advocacy group, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging that the Oklahoma City Zoo (OCZ) may be in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act for housing incompatible elephants together. Friends has grave concerns for the health and safety of Bamboo, who was moved to the OCZ from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo in 2015, as well as for the other elephants housed at the zoo.

Zoo records show that Bamboo has been the victim of aggression from the other elephants multiple times since her arrival at OCZ. They have repeatedly attacked Bamboo’s tail and in March a bite amputated about two inches. Another attack caused a six-inch gash on her trunk. Bamboo also suffered from other unexplained conditions such as edema on her abdomen, skin abrasions and fissures, and swelling above one eye—any or all of which could result from attacks.

Because the elephants are confined in a tiny, hot-wired yard, they don’t have the space or ability to escape from potential attacks. An elephant at San Diego Safari Park was killed by another elephant and on at least one occasion an elephant was killed by another at Toronto’s Zoo.

Bamboo has also shown aggression toward the other elephants. In May she pushed two-year-old Achara under a hot-wire fence. It has just been announced that has Achara tested positive for the deadly EEHV virus. Friends is especially concerned about the stress caused by aggressive incidents because stress can cause the dormant virus to break out, putting Achara’s life at risk.

Records also show that Bamboo has been separated from the other elephants overnight at least 46 times from April 2016 through mid-August. This follows the same dysfunctional regiment that Bamboo was subject to at the Woodland Park Zoo. Separation is extremely distressing to highly social animals.

Friends warned OCZ of potential integration issues with Bamboo who had already demonstrated incompatibility problems both at WPZ and Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo. In transferring Bamboo to Tacoma in 2005, WPZ warned that Bamboo’s “unpredictable behavior” posed a significant challenge in managing elephants as a “herd.” Point Defiance was unable to integrate Bamboo and returned her to Seattle less than a year later. Despite this known history, OCZ accepted Bamboo.

“Aggression between elephants in a space that does not allow for escape puts the elephants at serious risk for injury or death,” said Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder of Friends. “It was inexcusable of OCZ to have created this problem, and reprehensible of them to ignore it. It would be in the best interests of Bamboo and the other elephants to be retired to a sanctuary where they would have thousands of acres to roam and elephant companions of their own choosing.”

Read the USDA Complaint here

Article: Seattle elephant Bamboo attacked, bitten at new home in Oklahoma

Our hearts go out to Bamboo who is experiencing attacks from one or more of the elephants at the Oklahoma Zoo. In a tiny zoo yard, there is no space to flee and escape from an attack. Bamboo is also suffering from serious, captivity-related foot problems and colic. Bamboo has frequently been isolated as a result of these attacks. We call upon the Oklahoma City Zoo to have compassion for Bamboo and retire her to the 2,100 acre Asian habitat at The Elephant Sanctuary in TN.

Read the full article here from The Seattle Times

Here is an excerpt:

When Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo transferred its two elephants to the Oklahoma City Zoo last year, officials were optimistic that the animals would integrate well with Oklahoma’s existing herd.

Bamboo, the elder female, would become the matriarch. The younger Chai would be an “auntie” to Oklahoma’s young elephants, they predicted.

But within a few months, one of Oklahoma’s baby elephants was dead of a viral infection almost certainly passed to her by Chai. A few months later, Chai herself collapsed and died from a combination of emaciation and a systemic blood infection.

Now, zoo records show that far from acting as a matriarch, Bamboo has attacked — and been attacked by — the other elephants at her new home.

Press Release: Seattle Group Files Complaint with Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners over Death of Elephant


Chai in December 2015 being hoisted up after going down. She lost over 1,000 pounds in 8 months at the Oklahoma City Zoo before dying in a state of emaciation. Oklahoma City Zoo said there were “no red flags”.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants has filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners against the Director of Veterinary Services at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, over the death of Chai. We allege that Dr. D’Agostino was negligent by providing substandard care, disregarding indications of Chai’s failing health, and deceiving the public. We hope that the Board will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation, and take disciplinary action if it’s found that Dr. D’Agostino violated provisions of the Oklahoma Veterinary Practice Act. We have grave concerns for the remaining elephants at the zoo, including Bamboo, who suffers from ongoing, captivity-related medical issues.

You can read the Press Release, Complaint Introduction and entire Complaint here:
Press Release
Complaint Intro
Vet Board Complaint

Editorial: Zoo community refuses to learn from elephant Chai’s death

In this Editorial, The Seattle Times again shows that it has been a friend to the elephants; making sure their plight was heard. Sadly, Woodland Park Zoo, under Deborah Jensen, acted selfishly to keep Bamboo and Chai in the clutches of the zoo industry. Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant got an ordinance written that would have directed Woodland Park Zoo to send Bamboo and Chai to sanctuary. Unfortunately Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell voted to stop it. Elephants are highly intelligent, far-ranging animals who suffer and die young in zoos. They succumb physically and psychologically to the lack of exercise confined in tiny spaces, crushing boredom, lack of social interaction and captivity related diseases. At Oklahoma City Zoo the care was apparently substandard and Friends will be taking action.


Chai, 37 years old, dies at Oklahoma City Zoo

Chai in barn stall

Chai, 1979 – 2016

Chai is at peace now—free from suffering at the hands of the zoo industry. At 37, Chai would have been at the prime of her life in the wild, and still bearing calves, but Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) and now the Oklahoma City Zoo (OKC Zoo) bear the responsibility of another elephant dying prematurely. Chai’s life was filled with trauma, starting with being ripped from her mother at only one-year-old. She was beaten at Dickerson Park Zoo, suffered the heartbreak of losing her daughter, Hansa (6), and endured 112 invasive artificial inseminations. WPZ went against science and the will of the vast majority of Seattle residents by moving Chai (and Bamboo) to the OKC Zoo, another inadequate zoo devoid of any quality of life, rather than retiring her to sanctuary. Zoos must stop incarcerating and breeding elephants into a life sentence of misery.

tombstone for zoo elephants

Elephants who have died at the hands of Woodland Park Zoo


Woodland Park Zoo Transfers Ownership of Elephants Before New City Council Can Send Them to a Sanctuary

For Immediate Release

Bamboo suffering from foot problems

Bamboo suffering from foot problems

Seattle, WA (November 18, 2015) – This week, Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) announced that it transferred ownership of elephants, Bamboo and Chai, to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Sri to the St. Louis Zoo.

The timing of WPZ’s decision, in advance of a new city council taking office, raises questions about the true motivation behind this sudden and unannounced move. WPZ’s claim that transferring ownership is standard industry practice contradicts the zoo’s own track record. Sri has been on loan from WPZ to St. Louis Zoo since 2002. WPZ has never transferred ownership until now.

In this past election, Seattle likely voted in an elephant-friendly City Council. This majority could pass an ordinance, previously introduced by Councilmember Sawant that would order the WPZ-owned elephants to be retired to an accredited sanctuary. WPZ rushed the elephants out of town before it could be voted on.

Chai in barn stall


It is disingenuous for WPZ to say that the transfer of ownership “does not mean we will stop caring about them.” The zoo’s own actions indicate otherwise. Instead of retiring Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary, WPZ condemned them to a life sentence in a tiny yard and a barren barn cell in a freezing climate. Before that, WPZ unceremoniously dumped Sri at the St. Louis Zoo where she is one of 10 elephants on 2 acres enduring the same impoverished conditions as Bamboo and Chai. Sadly, these 3 elephants are at the mercy of Woodland Park Zoo which has ignored science, the majority of Seattle citizens, the Seattle City Council, and most gravely the physical and psychological health of these animals.

“It’s not enough that Woodland Park Zoo has stubbornly and willfully denied Bamboo, Chai, and Sri the opportunity to live out their golden years in open space immersed in nature – which only a sanctuary can provide,” said Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder of Friends. “Now in yet another cowardly and suspicious move, the zoo has taken away the people’s voice in determining a humane quality of life for our elephants.”

Seattle citizens are able to find comfort in the closure of Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant exhibit earlier this year. “Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants celebrates that we will never again bear witness to elephants suffering in Seattle,” says Fortgang.


OK City’s baby elephant, Malee, dies


Malee doing unnatural circus-style tricks. Photo credit: NewsOK.com

Malee, the 4 year old elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo died On October 1, 2015 of Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). May she rest in peace. Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants warned both Woodland Park Zoo and the Oklahoma City Zoo of the risk of EEHV to the two young elephants living at OCZ by moving Bamboo and Chai there. See page 4 of the OKC Zoo fact sheet.

Bamboo and Chai had been exposed to EEHV when Chai’s daughter, Hansa, died from it. Chai as well as the two elephants living at OCZ, Chandra and Ashe, were all exposed to the strain of herpes virus that killed Malee when at Dickerson Park Zoo. At Dickerson Park Zoo 5 elephants contracted EEHV and only Chandra survived. While Malee did not die from the same strain of EEHV as Hansa, there is a very real risk that Aschara, the surviving calf, may succumb to it.

EEHV is a virus which causes horrifically painful, and often fatal hemorrhaging of the vital organs in young Asian elephants. Once again the zoo industry has selfishly taken a risk with this precious young calf’s life in their obsessive desire to breed elephants into zoo confinement. Breeding elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo – and at all zoos – must end immediately. RIP Malee.


World Elephant Day, with Hope


Today is World Elephant Day. We commemorate our huge friends. They have shared the planet with us since humans emerged from the Great Rift. While we crept along, slowly evolving, elephants carried on with the wisdom and beauty of their own lives. They built nurturing and enduring families. They enjoyed their friends and acquaintances, competed and outwitted their rivals. Elephants’ strength and architectural acuity transformed scrubland into savannas, mudflats into water holes. Where they traveled, new opportunities followed. Elephants remain to this day the stewards and anchors of every biome they call home.

Elephants inspired poetry and wonder in us. They also inspired our insatiable greed. We alone are the instruments of elephants’ servitude in circuses and zoos, slaughter by trophy hunting and lust for their ivory. We alone are the instruments of their looming extinction.

The cause of their crisis is undeniable; the solution to their crisis obvious. They are one in the same: they are us.

While we dare not deny our culpability, it is more important that we dedicate ourselves to a new course of action, one calculated to champion their right to live and flourish on Earth as long as we share the planet with them.

This was written by Lisa Kane, JD.

Please join us in showing your enthusiastic support to organizations fighting in Asia and Africa for great arcs of space and freedom where elephants can live out the many decades of their lives with dignity. Here are some organizations that do outstanding work in the field to save wild elephants:

Big Life
The Amboseli Trust for Elephants
Wildlife Trust of India

Here are some petitions to sign:

Tell the US Fish and Wildlife Service to adopt strong protections to stop the ivory trade
Upgrade the Endangered Species Act

President and CEO of WPZ Resigns

Artificial Insemination Chai, Photo credit: Seattle Times

Artificial Insemination Chai, Photo credit: Seattle Times

Deborah Jensen, President and CEO of Woodland Park Zoo, announced her resignation on June 8th. Jensen’s abrupt departure presents a golden opportunity for the zoo board to bring in progressive leadership. In announcing her resignation, the zoo measured Jensen’s 13-year tenure mostly in terms of dollars. We measure Jensen’s reign by her failures and callous disregard for the welfare of the zoo’s elephants: Sri, Hansa, Watoto, Bamboo and Chai. Jensen’s resignation comes just a month after she banished Chai and Bamboo to the Oklahoma City Zoo where their quality of life will be further compromised.

Under Jensen’s “leadership” since 2002:

  • Sri at St. Louis Zoo

    Sri at the St. Louis Zoo where Woodland Park Zoo sent her.

    Two elephants died prematurely from diseases directly related to captivity.

  • In 2002 Sri was sent to the St. Louis Zoo for breeding. Sri is one of 10 elephants now living in a cramped 2 acre exhibit in a cold climate. (See video, time code 2:39)
  • In 2005, WPZ sent Bamboo to Tacoma’s Pt. Defiance Zoo because she was “aggressive” with Hansa and didn’t have the skills to integrate with the elephants at WPZ. Yet, when Bamboo didn’t integrate with the elephants in Tacoma, rather than retiring her to a sanctuary, she was brought back to WPZ.
  • WPZ subjected Chai to 112 highly invasive artificial insemination procedures despite the likelihood that another calf could die from the same virus that killed Hansa. The Oklahoma City Zoo hopes to breed Chai.
  • WPZ has fought five lawsuits related to the zoo’s elephant program, two of which are still pending. WPZ continues to fight the lawsuit seeking transparency in their treatment of the animals and accountability to taxpayers. Some of the suits were dismissed on technicalities; WPZ was not exonerated for alleged abuse of the elephants.
  • In 2013, in response to increasing criticism over WPZ’s elephant program, the zoo convened a Task Force. WPZ handpicked all Task Force members, stacking it with current and past zoo board members, donors and others with a conflict of interest. It was clear from the start that the Task Force was intended to act in favor of WPZ and therefore lacks credibility.
  • In 2014, WPZ was found to be in violation of the animals Welfare Act for failing to provide the elephants with access to shelter during inclement weather.
  • Watoto kept in solitary confinement

    Watoto, 1969 – 2014

    Watoto’s death proved to be a turning point, raising more questions about WPZ’s ability to provide humane care for the elephants; it also prompted city officials to consider filing charges against WPZ over Watoto’s death.

  • Over the years, polls showed growing support for retiring Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary; the most recent one with 95% of respondents favoring sanctuary.
  • In 2014, WPZ announced it would close its elephant exhibit and send Bamboo and Chai to another zoo, rather than to a sanctuary.

In 2015, WPZ announced on that it had chosen the Oklahoma City Zoo for Bamboo and Chai despite this zoo providing less space per elephants, being located in a colder climate and other factors worsening their quality of life. [Oklahoma City Zoo Fact Sheet]

  • Jensen sold the move on the premise that Bamboo and Chai would join a “multi-generational herd”—a notion that WPZ’s own previous press release refutes stating that Bamboo was “aggressive” and didn’t have the skills to integrate with other elephants.
  • WPZ spread the false statement that there are two elephants at PAWS sanctuary who have active tuberculosis (TB) when in fact there are none. Furthermore, Rex, at the Oklahoma City Zoo tested positive for latent TB which means he could develop an active case at any time—with no space to quarantine him.
  • Oklahoma City’s weather is unsuitable for elephants forcing them to endure crushing boredom locked inside a tiny, barren barn stall.
  • Jensen falsely claimed an amphitheater with loud rock concerts and frightening pyrotechnic explosions is located “a mile or kilometer” away from the elephant exhibit. Google maps shows that it is only 600 feet from the exhibit.
  • Oklahoma City Zoo elephant barn

    Oklahoma City Zoo elephant barn

    WPZ claimed the elephants would have access to 3.9 acres at the Oklahoma City Zoo. However, construction plans of the exhibit show the cow/calf yard is only 2.6 acres which would be shared by six elephants.

Under Jensen, the decision to send the elephants to another zoo ignored science, the opinions of objective elephant experts, calls from city officials, powerful media voices, and the ethical values of our community. Jensen’s leadership has kept Woodland Park Zoo entrenched in 19th century thinking that it is humane to confine these sentient beings for public entertainment regardless of their suffering.

sanctuary land

Tract of land on which Bamboo and Chai would live.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants will continue fighting for Bamboo, Chai and Sri to reach the expansive wooded countryside that only a sanctuary can provide—and where they can physically and psychologically heal from the traumas of zoo confinement.



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