When African elephant Watoto collapsed last week at the Woodland Park Zoo and had to be euthanized, her death reenergized a long-running debate over elephant exhibition in rainy Seattle. Today The Times asks for your opinion.
For years activists have contended that the exhibition of elephants is a matter of cruelty that can be considered separately from the display of other zoo animals. The world’s largest land mammals are confined to a small space; in captivity they are prone to disease, and Seattle’s climate cannot be considered hospitable. The Times editorial board supports their position, and it has called for the zoo’s two remaining elephants to be sent to an elephant sanctuary.
The Woodland Park Zoo directors prefer to build a bigger and better elephant display. Even before Watoto’s death, Woodland Park had been planning to transfer her to another zoo. Watoto is of the African variety, and her fellow elephants Chai and Bamboo are Asian. The zoo’s plan would build a same-species herd, involving acquisition of at least one Asian female, and possibly a second — that one might be of breeding age. The five-year $3 million plan also involves the renovation of the elephant barn, outdoor rain shelter and timed feeders for night grazing.
One option ends elephant exhibition. The other continues it. Which do you prefer?