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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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Lily Tomlin advocates for WPZ elephants at her own performance

Lily Tomlin with FOWPZE

Lily Tomlin with FOWPZE

Saturday, June 7th, Lily Tomlin performed at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater.  After the show she took questions and one question prompted her to advocate for Bamboo, Chai and Watoto to go to a sanctuary.  She said that Seattle’s weather caused the elephants to be locked up in the barn for over half of the year; pausing, she surveyed the stage….and said the elephants are locked up in the barn in a space not larger than this stage.  The packed house of about 2,000 people gasped.  The shock was palpable.

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Lily Tomlin calls for retirement of elephants to sanctuary; Silent meditation at Zoo on anniversary of Hansa’s death

A silent meditation will be held by concerned citizens calling for the retirement of Woodland Park Zoo’s three elephants to a sanctuary and in memory of baby elephant Hansa’s death.

Lily Tomlin, actor, comedian and elephant advocate is unable to attend but issued this statement: “It is unconscionable that Woodland Park Zoo would expand the elephant program by adding elephants without adding space. The 1-acre yard is too small for the elephants they have now and Seattle’s climate forces the elephants into tiny barn cages for a prolonged amount of time. Science has shown that elephants suffer physical and psychological harm due to inadequate space. The Zoo should retire the elephants to a sanctuary where they can live out their days in a humane way.”

A super-majority of Seattleites agree with Ms. Tomlin: a recent survey showed 62% of Seattleites support the retirement of the elephants to a sanctuary in a warmer climate with a vast amount of space.

The silent sitting also marks the 7th anniversary of baby elephant Hansa’s death at the zoo. An internal memo showed that the Zoo knew Hansa’s mother, Chai, could bring the deadly virus back from the Zoo in which she was bred. All three elephants have been exposed to the deadly herpes virus that killed Hansa, yet Woodland Park Zoo hopes to continue breeding.

When: Saturday, June 7th, 2014 at 11:15 AM -12:30 PM

Where: Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, WA. Meet us at the West Entrance of the Zoo off Phinney Ave.: 5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle WA 98103. Follow the West Entrance path inside and meet us across from the ticket window.

What: We will hold two short meditations. The first will be at the plaza inside the West Entrance across from the ticket counter. The second will be on the steps of the elephant exhibit inside the zoo.

“Seattleites love our elephants so much that they selflessly want Bamboo, Chai and Watoto retired to a sanctuary. Our city’s conscience dictates that we do so immediately” says Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.

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Profiles – Alyne Fortgang + Nancy Pennington

Fortgang and Pennington

Fortgang and Pennington, photo from kimpluscraig.com

Kim+Craig gives us an in-depth look into Alyne Fortgang and Nancy Pennington, cofounders of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants. They provide insight into how the campaign to relocate the Zoo’s elephants to a more suitable habitat began and grew over time. The profile piece includes several videos.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

If Woodland Park Zoo is to be believed, Alyne Fortgang and Nancy Pennington, the two polite women seated opposite me and the co-founders behind Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, are “extremists” bent on undoing all the good the Zoo has created by insisting the occupants of its elephant exhibit be moved to one of two sanctuaries to allow them to live out the rest of their days in a space and climate more suitable to their species’ status as Earth’s largest land animal.

Check out the full article and the interview videos on kimpluscraig.com

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Honoring baby elephant Hansa, June 7th

Baby Hansa

Baby Hansa

Join us for a short silent meditation in honor of the 7th anniversary of baby elephant Hansa’s death and to show continued commitment for the retirement of Bamboo, Chai and Watoto to a sanctuary.

When: Saturday, June 7th, 11AM-12:30PM

Where: Inside West Entrance of Woodland Park Zoo off Phinney Ave. between N. 55th and N. 56th . Follow the West Entrance path inside and we will meet across from the ticket window.

What: We will hold two short sittings in demonstration. The first will be at the plaza inside the West Entrance across from the ticket counter. The second will be at the elephant exhibit inside the zoo.

  • Free T-shirts with our message for the first 50 people.
  • Zoo entry fee defrayment available for those who want to attend the sitting at the elephant exhibit and are in need.
  • A cushion or towel may be a good idea to bring to sit on.

Are you in? The elephants need your support! RSVP now at wpzelephants@yahoo.com

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