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Urgent: Watoto's relocation to another Zoo must be stopped. Read more.

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Poem: City Zoo

Watoto kept in solitary confinement

Watoto, Rest In Peace, 1969 – 2014

City Zoo
By Vivian Yeiser Laramore

The tick of time is out of rhyme,
Where wild things wait for death,
Watching the stars through iron bars,
And breathing each other’s breath.
But little man with his civic plan,
To conquer and subdue,
Acquires a thrill from broken will,
Of beasts in the city zoo.

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HuffPo Article: Seattle Zoo Elephant’s Unexpected Death Prompts Important Discussion About Animal Captivity

The tragic and sudden death of Watoto, WPZ’s African elephant, once again has put the Zoo into the national spotlight. Huffington Post picked up the story.

Here is an excerpt:

“In the wild at 45 years old they’re still having babies,” Alyne Fortgang, a Seattle resident and critic of the zoo’s elephant exhibit, told the AP. “Watoto was lame. She had arthritis, chronic bouts of colic and skin conditions, all caused by her environment.”

For years, activists have lamented the continuation of elephant exhibits at zoos and called for the animals to be relocated to sanctuaries. They assert that the confined living quarters negatively impact the well-being of elephants.

Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo, an advocacy group that advocates for the relocation of the zoo’s elephants to sanctuaries, said in a post on their website that “Watoto’s life must not be in vain” and “confinement in a zoo takes a physical and psychological toll on these far-ranging and intelligent animals.”

Read the full story on Huffington Post

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Vigil for Watoto

Vigil for Watoto

Vigil for Watoto (photo from KOMO News)

Elephant advocates from all over the region joined in Watoto’s memory to hold a vigil. We held signs at the street entrance to Woodland Park Zoo for about an hour. Then we marched to the gate entrance where we put a big picture of Watoto. One by one each of us laid a flower “at Watoto’s feet”. The silent meditation was begun with a gong. But the silence was punctuated with crying.

See photos and news coverage in the Seattle P-I

See photos and news coverage on KOMO News

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Watoto euthanized today at WPZ – Vigil tomorrow at noon

Watoto

Watoto

Today is very sad day. Watoto was euthanized. She died without ever having had a good day.

Watoto’s life must not be in vain. Bamboo and Chai must find peace and health in a sanctuary.

Watoto was discovered down when the keepers arrived this morning. Unable to get her up, the Zoo’s staff decided to euthanize her. This brings up many questions: why aren’t the elephants monitored 24/7 as they are at the sanctuaries? What are the zoo’s policies for a downed elephant? Do they have adequate equipment to lift an elephant?

Watoto was only 45 years old. In the wild, she would have been in the prime of her life; still bearing calves. Confinement in a zoo takes a physical and psychological toll on these far-ranging and intelligent animals. The zoo industry’s own statistics show that elephants die young.

Woodland Park Zoo denied Watoto of one her greatest needs–companionship of her own kind. After being ripped from her mother in Africa as a baby, Watoto never set eyes on another African elephant. The zoo also denied Watoto the opportunity to spend her remaining years in a sanctuary.

Watoto in the yard at WPZ

Watoto in the yard at WPZ

Watoto suffered from a host of chronic captivity-related diseases as a result of living her entire life in the cramped quarters of Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo is an exceptionally poor environment. The elephants are locked outdoors in less than 1 acre. Indoors, the elephants are locked in barren cages, standing on hard substrate and only able to walk a few steps in any direction. This lockup, due to our climate, lasts 16-17 hours a day, every day, for over half of the year. Scientific American describes this as: “tortuous conditions [which] inflict serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals.”

We hope that Watoto’s suffering and death will not be in vain. We are very grateful for Seattle’s Mayor Murray’s statement that  we should “reopen a dialogue in this city about the proper habitat for elephants.”  We need him to go farther: Bamboo and Chai need to retire to a sanctuary.

Please write to ask the Mayor and the City Council to order the zoo to release Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary. They have the authority.

Ed.murray@seattle.gov, Jean.Godden@seattle.gov,Sally.Bagshaw@seattle.gov, Tim.Burgess@seattle.gov, Sally.Clark@seattle.gov, Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov, Nick.Licata@seattle.gov, Tom.Rasmussen@seattle.gov, Mike.OBrien@seattle.gov, Kshama.Sawant@seattle.gov

Click here for the Zoo’s press release.

Vigil Saturday at Noon

We will have hold a vigil/ peaceful demonstration at the street entrance to Woodland Park Zoo’s south entrance tomorrow at noon.

What:  Vigil for beautiful Watoto
When: Saturday, August 23, 2014 at noon
Where:  Street entrance to the Zoo’s south entrance at N. 50th and Fremont Ave. N.

Rest in peace, Watoto.

 

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Zoo’s Secrecy shows why Prop 1 is a bad idea

For Immediate Release

Monday, July 28th (Seattle, WA) – Before a packed courtroom of elephant advocates on Friday, a judge allowed the Woodland Park Zoo continue operating under a veil of secrecy. In Fortgang v. Woodland Park Zoo, King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel ruled that the Zoo is not subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act despite the fact that it receives a significant amount of tax dollars every year.

As Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, Fortgang has filed multiple public disclosure requests to the Zoo. Frequently the Zoo was non-responsive to requests for basic financial and animal welfare information or provided information that would later prove to be grossly inaccurate.

Rob Roy Smith, with Kilpatrick, Townsend, & Stockton, LLP, representing Ms. Fortgang said: “This is dark day for our state’s sunshine laws. The Zoo’s position, that it can take taxpayer dollars but not tell taxpayers how they are used, is Exhibit A as to why Prop. 1 is a bad idea.”

For years, Woodland Park Zoo has held out its hand for massive taxpayer support while with the other slapping away taxpayer requests for transparency and accountability. To date, the Zoo has received about $126 million tax dollars since the City of Seattle turned over operation of the zoo to the Zoological Society in 2002. Under the contract between the City and the Zoo, it can count on at least $203,000,000 in total funding, yet the public cannot count on information on how it uses our tax dollars.

Judge Rietschel found that the amount of taxpayer money and the free use of City parkland, city buildings and animals given to the Zoo was significant, but said that her hands were tied by a prior Court of Appeals decision. The Judge expressed her sympathy for plaintiff Alyne Fortgang’s position and stated that “citizens should be able to follow the money”.

In addition to the ongoing contractual obligation of City and County taxpayers to send millions of dollars to the Zoo, Prop 1, if passed, is slated to give the Zoo up to additional $34 million dollars. “Prop. 1 will be another taxpayer giveaway to the Zoo without any public accountability,” said Smith.

Ms. Fortgang is considering all of her legal options including an appeal.

King County courtroom

Photo credit: Karen Ducey

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Action Alert: Join us in the courtroom!

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants has filed numerous public disclosure requests to the Zoo. In response to requests for basic financial and animal welfare information, the Zoo has stated it doesn’t have specific records or supplied grossly inaccurate information. The Zoo claimed it isn’t subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act. In order to hold the Zoo accountable, we filed a lawsuit on March 12, 2014: Fortgang v. Woodland Park Zoo. The request for summary judgment will be heard this Friday, July 25th at 1:30pm.

Please come to fill the courtroom with elephant advocates!

What: Request for summary judgment for Fortgang v. Woodland Park Zoo
When: Friday, July 25th, 2014 at 1:30pm
Where: King County Superior Court. 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
Honorable Judge Jean Rietschel’s courtroom.

What is the zoo hiding?

Chai artificial insemination

Chai – Artificial insemination, photo credit: The Seattle Times

The Zoo has taken over $108 million dollars from tax payers since 2002. The Zoo has use of city parkland and city buildings RENT FREE. The Zoo acquired their “product”, the animals, for FREE. Yet the Zoo has refused to answer the most basic details about the welfare of Bamboo, Chai and Watoto, the three elephants confined in the Zoo. When it did respond, some information was not accurate—such as how many times Chai was artificially inseminated or where the water sources are located in the yard. More recently, the Zoo has refused to provide records on the imminent transfer of Watoto to another Zoo. Despite acknowledging that the Zoo is communicating with other zoos, it says it has no records.

Please come to show the judge WE ARE WATCHING

 

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We didn’t speak but we were HEARD!

Upwards of 100 elephant advocates filled over half of the Seattle City Council chambers with a sea of orange. Donning orange t-shirts, the advocates made the point quite clear: Watoto needs sanctuary now. Woodland Park Zoo plans to send Watoto away to another zoo. Under advice of legal counsel, we intend to show the Mayor and City Council that they have authority over the Zoo. Stay tuned!

Elephant advocates at City Council

Elephant advocates at City Council, photo credit: Todd Stefan

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Elephant advocates go to City Hall asking for 43 years of zoo lock up of Watoto to end

For Immediate Release

Monday, July 14th (Seattle, WA) – Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and area advocates will attend today’s Seattle City Council meeting en masse to urge the City Council to exercise its authority to persuade Woodland Park Zoo to retire Watoto, one of the Zoo’s elephants, to a sanctuary. The Zoo announced it will send Watoto to another zoo by the end of the year.

Woodland Park Zoo has refused to provide records on Watoto’s imminent transfer and is currently fighting a lawsuit calling for the Zoo to be transparent.

The Council meeting marks 43 years this month since Watoto was taken from her mother as a baby.  She was shipped from Kenya to Woodland Park Zoo into an impoverished life of confinement.  Watoto suffers from a plethora of physical and psychological ailments. She could heal in a sanctuary by roaming vast spaces and bonding with elephants of her choosing—all in a warm climate.

Lisa Kane, JD, a noted international elephant expert, will address the Council.

What: Seattle City Council meeting

When: Monday, July 14th, Advocates will meet at 1:30 pm in front of City Hall at the 4th and Cherry entrance, then head upstairs to the City Hall chambers for the 2pm meeting.

Where: Seattle City Hall at 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104.

A recent survey showed that a super majority of Seattleites want the Zoo’s elephants retired to a sanctuary. To date, 28 zoos have closed or will close their elephant exhibits, including Tacoma’s Pt. Defiance Zoo.

“The Zoo has received over $100 million dollars in taxpayer money from the City and King County, making Watoto’s welfare all of our responsibility” says Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.

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Action Alert: WPZ to send Watoto to another zoo

Watoto poster for 7.14.14 city councilWoodland Park Zoo intends to ship Watoto to another zoo SOON. We are very concerned that she will be sent to live in another impoverished exhibit. Please attend this City Council meeting to show your support for Watoto to spend her final years in a sanctuary.

What: Seattle City Council meeting
When: Monday, July 14th, 1:30pm
Where: Seattle City Hall at 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104.

Meet at 1:30pm in front of City Hall at the 4th and Cherry entrance. We will head up to the City Hall chambers on the second floor at 1:45pm to attend the City Council meeting.

FREE: t-shirts provided with the message:  Seattle ♥ WatotoSanctuary

RSVP: Please reply to  wpzelephants@yahoo.com if you can attend so we know how many t-shirts to order.

Print this poster and distribute. Thanks!

To learn more about Watoto, click here.

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Zoo Fights Lawsuit Seeking Transparency

Seattle, WA – Alyne Fortgang, a Seattle tax payer, filed a motion for a summary judgment today asking the court to rule the Woodland Park Zoological Society (Zoo) be subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act. The Zoo has received over $100M in taxpayer money since 2002 with no end in sight for their escalating demands for more money; yet they refuse to be accountable.

“What is the Zoo trying to hide?” says Ms. Fortgang.

Fortgang is Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and as such, has filed numerous public records requests to the Zoo for information regarding the health and welfare of the three elephants held there. In many instances the Zoo withheld information, claimed it had no records pertaining to the request, or provided information that later would prove to be grossly inaccurate.

“Not only does the Zoo think that they don’t have to be transparent with taxpayers” says Ms. Fortgang, “but they are paying their lawyers to fight to continue withholding financial and welfare information from taxpayers—the very people who foot the bill to keep the Zoo open.”

The summary judgment:  http://freewpzelephants.org/Motion_Summary_Judgment.pdf

The court date:  July 25th, 2014 at 1:30. King County Superior Court, 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

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