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Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 26, 2014 at 7:08 AM

Watoto’s death: Send Woodland Park Zoo elephants to sanctuary

Woodland Park Zoo elephant Watoto unexpectedly died on Friday.

Woodland Park Zoo elephant Watoto was euthanized Friday morning after Seattle zookeepers found her collapsed and unable to rise in an outdoor exhibit yard.

Woodland Park Zoo’s African elephant, Watoto, has died at age 45 [“Death of elephant at Seattle zoo mourned, revives debate,” Local News, Aug. 23]. The zoo claimed that she was old and had a “healthful” life. Neither is true.

Elephants often live 60 to 70 years or more in wild areas protected from poaching. Asian matriarch, Shirley, is 66 and going strong at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. But wild and sanctuary elephants have freedom and vast natural space to roam. Watoto had neither.

Statistics show that an elephant lifespan plummets in zoos. Severe confinement, standing on hard surfaces in their own waste and complete deprivation and boredom create a kind of perfect storm leading to their gradual destruction. The zoo claims Watoto’s death was unexpected.

It shouldn’t have been. Her medical records show that she suffered from chronic colic and captivity-related arthritis and displayed severe neurotic behaviors.

The two survivors at the zoo must be retired immediately to a sanctuary. Not one more Seattle elephant should have to gain her freedom by dropping dead in the elephant yard.

Nancy Farnam, Edmonds

Comments | Topics: elephants, woodland park zoo

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