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November 24, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Should Woodland Park Zoo elephants go to zoo or sanctuary?

UPDATE 10:24 a.m., Dec. 3, 2014: Seattle City Council member Nick Licata responded to the editorial board’s request for his position on whether Chai and Bamboo should be sent to a zoo or sanctuary. His staff sent an email stating, “Councilmember Licata appreciates the work the Zoo has done to consider options for the elephant exhibit. He supports sending Bamboo and Chai to a qualified, safe sanctuary.”

ORIGINAL POST:

Woodland Park Zoo officials pleasantly surprised me when they announced a plan on Wednesday to phase out the elephant exhibit. I’m sure a lot of people were ready to give them a round of applause.

Chai, a 35-year-old Asian elephant, holds a pose as she waits for a zookeeper to place hay in a box in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Chai, a 35-year-old Asian elephant, holds a pose as she waits for a zookeeper to place hay in a box in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

And then they blew it. Bamboo and Chai are likely headed to a different zoo on this list of accredited institutions by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Bamboo, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, walks in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Bamboo, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, walks in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Seattle Times editorial board published an editorial Wednesday evening calling on Seattle leaders to give these animals a break. They have worked hard enough for decades. Let them retire and roam free somewhere.(If you want to have your say, scroll to the poll at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Details are yet to be ironed out, but the Seattle City Council — which also serves double duty as board members of the Seattle Park District — should require the zoo to retire these animals. Make no mistake: This is now an election issue for City Council races.

On Thursday, I asked each of the nine Seattle City Council members to respond to this question: Do you support the elephants going to another zoo or sanctuary?

As of Friday morning, every member of the council had responded except Nick Licata. Find out where they stand below.

Send them to sanctuary: Bruce Harrell, Kshama Sawant

Sawant via statement:

“Animal rights activists have made a compelling case. I agree with them that sanctuary is the best destination for the elephants.”

Harrell via email:

“I support the elephants going to a sanctuary. Our academic understanding of elephants has grown in the last several decades and the kind of captive confinement of elephants in small facilities like our zoo is an unhealthy practice. I think the health of the elephants outweigh the amusement value produced by this kind of confinement. The employees and president of the zoo, Deborah Jensen, have done great work but it is time to move forward. I would like to see a high-tech interactive elephant exhibit at the zoo, but I think it is time to send Bamboo and Chai to a safe sanctuary.”

Undecided: Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw

Email from O’Brien’s aide, Josh Fogt:

Mike said that he would ideally like to see the elephants go to a sanctuary. He understands the zoo has looked into that option and has determined that of the four possible sanctuaries, two are not accepting elephants and two have tuberculosis present within their herds. The zoo has said they don’t think it is in the elephants long-term health interest to move the elephants to those sanctuaries with tuberculosis. Mike doesn’t know enough about zoology to know whether that is a real concern, and so is inclined to believe the zoo at this point. He is not afraid to withhold funding from the zoo if he feels like they are not acting in good faith, but he has been encouraged by their recent decision to move the elephants.

Bagshaw’s statement sent out Wednesday:

“Thanks to the Woodland Park Zoo director and board for making the decision to find a new home for Chai and Bamboo.  I support moving our elephants to a place where they will be safe, warm, and have room to roam. I look forward to learning more about the proposed schedule and the location where Chai and Bamboo will enjoy their retirement.”

Let the zoo decide: Tom Rasmussen, Sally Clark, Tim Burgess

Rasmussen via email:

I want the best for the elephants.

I am neither a scientist nor a veterinarian. Because of that, I am not qualified to determine whether one of the zoos under consideration or a sanctuary would be the best new location.

The Woodland Park Zoo is one of the best in the world.  I know that the Zoo staff care deeply about the wellbeing of the elephants and because of that I am confident they will make the right choice.

Clark via email:

Overall, I’m glad the Zoo has decided to find a healthy herd of new friends for Chai and Bamboo. My interest are that the elephants are healthy, happy and well cared for. I think professionals with experience in elephant health best practices are better to judge exactly where they go.

Burgess via email:

I’m not prepared to comment on where the elephants should go, but I applaud the Zoo for making the decision to unite Chai and Bamboo with other elephants. The decision about where they live is a question that is best left with experts in animal welfare, veterinarians, and others who have scientific knowledge of this issue.

Send them to another zoo: Jean Godden

Godden via phone interview:

My own feeling is that obviously it’s the zoo’s decision,. They are the ones managing the animals. We cooperate with them in the sense that we do own the grounds and they use the grounds. I support their decision. As a matter of fact, I have not heard good things about the sanctuary. When you talk about (Performing Animal Welfare Society), they’re a private zoo. If you give a whole lot of money, you can look at the elephants. But ordinary people can’t see them.

What do readers think? Vote in the informal poll below.

Comments | Topics: elephants, Seattle City Council, woodland park zoo

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