Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants is bringing awareness to the plight of Bamboo, Chai and Watoto, the three elephants who live on display at Woodland Park Zoo. Our mission is for them to be retired to a sanctuary with vast spaces in a suitable climate and that the live elephant exhibit be permanently closed. A recent survey showed that Seattleites embrace these values with 62% favoring the elephants’ retirement.

Watoto kept in solitary confinement

Watoto kept in solitary confinement

Bamboo, Chai and Watoto, were babies when they were taken from their mothers with whom they should have spent their entire lives. They were crated up and sent to Seattle to be put on display. Their world became a fraction of an acre outdoors and prolonged confinement in a barren barn stall, or cage, indoors. That was the first of many traumas — absent of maternal protection —that they have endured in their decades in Seattle.

Science has taught us too much about the nature of elephants to continue to keep them in environments that physically and psychologically harm these peaceful, intelligent animals.

Bamboo suffering from foot problems

Bamboo suffering from foot problems

Dr. Jane Goodall stated:

While many zoos do an excellent job of caring for wild animals and contributing to their conservation, there are some species, like elephants, which will always be unsuited to zoo environments.”

Elephants held in zoo captivity live decades shorter than their natural lifespan.

Bamboo, Chai and Watoto suffer from arthritis, colic, painful skin ailments, lameness and chronic foot infections — all captivity-induced ailments. All three elephants display abnormal repetitive stereotypical behaviors such as pacing, head bobbing and swaying. These behaviors are the mind’s way of coping with trauma, stress and crushing boredom.

Dr. Joyce Poole, who has studied elephants for over 40 years said:

In over 34,000 sightings of elephants [in the wild] not one elephant has been seen swaying rhythmically back and forth or showing other neurotic behavior— ultimately caused by lack of space.”

Elephants at a sanctuary

We believe, as do 66% of Seattleites that people can learn about elephants and their conservation from a non-live elephant exhibit. Seattle is perfectly positioned to lead the way with an innovative, educational experience that is also fun. Woodland Park Zoo has a unique opportunity to be leaders in compassion and teach our children an incredible lesson in science by releasing Bamboo, Chai and Watoto to a sanctuary.

Allowing the elephants to live out their lives at a sanctuary is the ethical and humane decision of an enlightened zoo, government, and community.

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