Seattle, Wash. – Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, a local advocacy group, and In Defense Of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization, denounce the Zoo’s plan released today for the future of its elephant program.
The Zoo’s decision to keep Asian elephants Bamboo and Chai, relocate African elephant Watoto to another zoo, and bring in additional elephants for breeding defies science and Seattle community values. The Zoo’s plan rests on the biased report of its own self-appointed Task Force, which refused to hear from recommended objective experts outside of those handpicked by the Zoo. The agenda, as we expected, was to produce today’s results in order to justify business as usual while still ignoring what should be of paramount importance—what is best for Bamboo, Chai, and Watoto.
“The Zoo is stubbornly clinging to the archaic and inhumane practice of housing elephants at a time when 27 other zoos have closed or plan to close their elephants exhibits, including Tacoma’s Pt. Defiance Zoo,” said Nicole Meyer, Director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign.
These Zoos acknowledged what decades of scientific research has shown—elephants fare poorly in captivity. After an in-depth review of scientific studies, the Scientific American recently concluded that “Confined elephants often spend their time standing around in cramped quarters. These tortuous conditions inflict serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals.”
The San Diego Zoo and LA Zoo each spent more than $42 million dollars to improve their elephant exhibits. “The mere $1.3 to $3 million dollars our zoo proposes over five years is a drop in the bucket, and it also includes funding conservation. This amount is grossly inadequate and will not significantly improve the elephants’ quality of life,” said Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of Friends. “If the Zoo truly cared about conservation, it could free upwards of a million dollars each year for conservation by retiring the elephants to a sanctuary and replacing the current elephant exhibit with a virtual state-of-the art educational program.”
The Zoo’s plan is also woefully out of step with the community it serves. An October survey showed that 62% of Seattleites favor sending the elephants to a sanctuary in a warmer climate with a vast amount of space, and 66% believe children can learn about elephants and conservation through exhibits that do not include live elephants. “The Zoo cannot change the fact that our wet and cold climate forces these intelligent, far-ranging animals into a cage-like stall for 16-17 hours every day for over half of the year,” said Fortgang.
See also, the Woodland Park Zoo’s press release