A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods

 

Necropsy report shows elephant Watoto had chronic, age-related arthritis

October 7th, 2014 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo today released the necropsy report for its female African elephant Watoto, who was euthanized in August at the age of 45 after she was found lying down in the elephant exhibit and unable to stand on her own.

Excerpts from the press release:

According to the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Darin Collins, the most relevant finding from the pathology report was the chronic, age-related arthritis in the elephant’s leg joints, which had been described during the post-mortem examination. Additional findings in other tissues examined, such as age-related changes in heart and muscles, were mild and within expected limits and were not life-threatening. There was no evidence of an infectious disease process, in the joints or in other tissues examined. In addition, the pathologist did not find any evidence for a herpesvirus infection.

“We don’t know if Watoto fell or laid down. My clinical assessment is that she was unable to stand back up, due to the joint disease,” said Collins. Falls in elderly animals, and people, can be caused by physical conditions, such as arthritis, that impair mobility or balance. “Unfortunately, the sequence of events that occurs when an elephant is down and unable to stand becomes life-threatening in less than a few hours’ time. When lying down, large-bodied animals cannot breathe normally due to massive weight impacting their lung cavity, decreasing blood flow to vital organs and nerves, and resulting in limb paralysis.”

During multiple attempts to get Watoto to her feet, several hourly blood draws that were taken to monitor her health status showed her overall condition was in swift decline, added Collins.

“We are not surprised by the pathologist’s findings, which are consistent with those of a geriatric animal. Watoto did not show any new health concerns and her behavior and appetite were normal in the days leading up to her death,” explained Collins.

On the morning of August 22, zookeepers reported that Watoto was lying on her side in the yard of the elephant exhibit, unable to move to an upright position, an unusual behavior for her. Through many attempts, the keepers and animal health staff were able to successfully right Watoto to her feet with the careful use of crane-like machinery. “Unfortunately, despite these attempts, Watoto was unable to stand on her own,” said Martin Ramirez, the zoo’s curator of mammals. “Watoto simply didn’t have any more to give. We were faced with making the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her, and we made it with compassion and deep sadness.”

Watoto was born in Kenya between 1969 and 1970, and joined Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant herd in 1971 as an orphan from the wild.

Woodland Park Zoo has two remaining female elephants: 47-year-old Bamboo and 35-year-old Chai.

Comments OffTags: ,

Woodland Park Zoo plans to improve elephant exhibit, replace Watoto with a new Asian elephant

March 31st, 2014 by Doree

On Friday, Woodland Park Zoo quietly released its final plan to improve its elephant exhibit. (The zoo did not send out a press release, but posted it on its blog.)

The plan calls for the zoo to spend up to $3 million to send its African elephant, Watoto, to another zoo, and replace her with a new Asian elephant, and improve the indoor and outdoor elephant habitats.

The Elephant Task Force released its final report last October. The zoo’s Board of Directors and staff reviewed it and came up with the final plan.

The group Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants slammed that plan on its website.

The Seattle Times had an in-depth story on the plan on Saturday.

CommentsTags: , ,

Task force to release final report on Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants tonight

October 22nd, 2013 by Doree

The task force that’s been evaluating Woodland Park Zoo‘s elephant program will present its final report at 6 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) at the Central Library downtown, 1000 4th Ave, 4th Floor, Meeting Room 1, Seattle.

The WPZ board appointed the Task Force to evaluate the zoo’s elephant program and exhibit, the health and care of its three elephants, and the value of the exhibit and program to the zoo’s education and conservation objectives.

At the meeting, Task Force co-chairs Jan Hendrickson, co-founder of Denny Hill Capital, and Jay Manning, an environmental attorney and former chief of staff to Gov. Christine Gregoire, will publicly present the Task Force’s key findings, recommendations and management options for the WPZ Board to consider for the elephant program and exhibit.

More information can be found at www.elephanttaskforce.org. Written questions from the public in attendance will be addressed by the Task Force.

Comments OffTags: ,

Protesters plan to demonstrate before 5th Elephant Task Force meeting today

August 28th, 2013 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo’s Elephant Task Force meets again today to discuss the health and well-being of the zoo’s three elephants: Bamboo, Chai and Watoto. The task force meeting is from 4-8 p.m. downtown at the US Bank Center, 1420 5th Ave., 4th Floor Conference Room.

Task force meetings are open to the public. You can see past meeting summaries and video on the task force website.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants plans to demonstrate before that meeting, beginning at 3 p.m., claiming task force members are too close to the zoo and not objective.

Comments OffTags: , , ,

Woodland Park Zoo Society appoints task force to evaluate elephant program and exhibit

April 16th, 2013 by Doree

The board of Woodland Park Zoo has appointed a panel of community leaders to evaluate all aspects of the zoo’s elephant program and exhibit, from the elephants’ health and care, to the value of having elephants at the zoo, as well as the zoo’s education and conservation objectives.

Elephant-Chai-Browsing-RyanHawk-resized

Chai, WPZ’s 34-year-old female Asian elephant. Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.

The task force will meet for the first time from 4-7 p.m. this Thursday at the Central Library downtown, 1000 4th Ave., in the Washington Mutual Foundation Room (Level 4, Meeting Room 1). The meeting is open to the public. Written comments from the public will be accepted and made part of the record, but this is not a public hearing. Task force meetings also will be videotaped and posted on the task force website.

The task force is co-chaired by Jan Hendrickson, co-founder of Denny Hill Capital and a former WPZ board chair; and Jay Manning, an environmental attorney and former chief of staff to Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Other task force members include:

  • Marianne Bichsel, founder and president of Bichsel Public Affairs and former senior advisor to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels;
  • Grant Degginger, chair of the Construction and Environmental Practice Group at Lane Powell PC in Seattle and former Bellevue mayor and city council member;
  • Gene Duvernoy, president of Forterra, a regional organization dedicated to land conservation;
  • Ellen Ferguson, director of community relations at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture;
  • Annette Laico, executive director of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS);
  • Jeff Leppo, a law partner in the Seattle office of Stoel Rives LLP, specializing in environmental, wildlife and natural resources law;
  • Rob Liddell, M.D., medical director for Center for Diagnostic Imaging Seattle, and founding member of Woodland Park Zoo’s Conservation Committee;
  • Jeannie Nordstrom, community volunteer and YWCA board member; Bryce Seidl, president and CEO of the Pacific Science Center;
  • Andrew Shouse, Ph.D., associate director of the University of Washington Institute for Science and Math Education;
  • Lyn Tangen, former senior director, Corporate Communications, for Vulcan Inc., and legal advisor to Mayor Paul Schell;
  • Suzanne Walsh, senior program officer in education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;
  • Bryan Slinker, D.V.M. Ph.D., dean of the college of veterinary medicine at Washington State University.

Bichsel, Leppo, Liddell and Slinker are current members of the zoo’s board of directors. The task force is expected to name a separate panel of experts to focus on the health and care of the zoo’s elephants.

CommentsTags: ,

Rally today in support of sending Woodland Park Zoo elephants to a sanctuary

December 15th, 2012 by Doree

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants will hold a rally today in support of releasing the zoo’s elephants to a sanctuary.

The rally will take place at the zoo’s south entrance, at North 50th Street and Fremont Avenue North, from 12-2 p.m.

CommentsTags: , ,

Woodland Park Zoo tries again to artificially inseminate elephant Chai

December 5th, 2011 by Doree

The Woodland Park Zoo last night again performed an artificial insemination procedure on 32-year-old Asian elephant Chai.

Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.

From the press release:

Semen for the procedure was contributed by a 13-year-old bull at ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque, N.M. With no offspring to date, the bull is genetically valuable to the North American population of elephants.

“It will be approximately 15 to 16 weeks before we can confirm a pregnancy by ultrasound and through hormonal changes in Chai,” explained Dr. Nancy Hawkes, the zoo’s general curator and resident expert in elephant reproduction. The gestation period for elephants is 22 months. “If Chai is pregnant, we would expect her to give birth in late 2013.”

Dr. Dennis Schmitt, a leading expert in elephant reproductive physiology and a professor of animal science at Missouri State University, joined the zoo’s elephant management and animal health staff in performing the artificial insemination.

Chai has been inseminated with this state-of-the art and proven technique during 10 ovulation cycles since 2005 but only one has resulted in a pregnancy. “Her pregnancy in 2008, unfortunately, ended in an early miscarriage, which is not uncommon in mammals, especially during the first trimester,” said Hawkes.

Hawkes said that animal welfare is the principal goal of the zoo and its effort to inseminate Chai. “It’s enriching for the herd to include calves and this technique allows us to help females get pregnant without needing to transport them to another institution that houses bulls, spending months away from their home and social group,” said Hawkes.

Woodland Park Zoo remains committed to sustaining a genetically healthy population of elephants in zoos by participating in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for elephants.

Chai was the mother of Hansa, a female elephant who was born at the zoo in 2000 and died unexpectedly at 6½ years old from a newly discovered elephant herpesvirus. “A baby would help us begin to re-build a multigenerational social group here at the zoo,” said Hawkes.

CommentsTags: , , ,

Elephant advocates to protest in front of, and above, Woodland Park Zoo today

July 15th, 2011 by Doree

Members of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and Sound Animal Rights Alliance will demonstrate in front of Woodland Park Zoo this afternoon, to renew their calls for the zoo to send its three elephants to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

An airplane also will fly over the zoo and surrounding areas, pulling a banner that says “Zoo Elephants Suffer.”
Demonstrators will be in front of the zoo’s West Entrance on Phinney Avenue North at North 55th Street from 4-6 p.m. The banner will fly over from 5-6 p.m.

“When people see the aerial message, we hope they will contact the Seattle City Council and WPZ to ask for the release of these long-suffering elephants to the Sanctuary,” FWPZE member Sandy Clinton said in a press release.

More from the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants press release:

According to scientists, animal experts and WPZ’s own medical records Bamboo, Watoto and Chai suffer from captivity-induced ailments including crippling arthritis and chronic foot infections. These are directly caused by lack of space and severe confinement which will likely lead to premature death.

The three elephants display severe neurotic behaviors such as swaying, pacing in circles and head bobbing; all signs of serious distress. According to behavioral experts like Dr. Gay Bradshaw, “stereotypies are a common symptom of people in prisons as well as animals in zoos. They are a coping mechanism that helps to protect the mind against unbearable stress and trauma.”

CommentsTags: , , , , , ,

Zoo tries again to artificially inseminate elephant Chai

June 9th, 2011 by Doree

The Woodland Park Zoo yesterday performed an artificial insemination procedure on Chai, the zoo’s 32-year-old Asian elephant. The zoo says the semen used for the procedure was from a 13-year-old bull at Albuquerque Biological Park Zoo. It will be about 15-16 weeks before the zoo can confirm if Chai becomes pregnant from the procedure. The gestation period for elephants is 22 months.

Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.

From the zoo’s press release:

Chai has been inseminated with this proven technique during nine ovulation cycles since 2005 but only one has resulted in a pregnancy. The pregnancy, in 2008, unfortunately ended in an early miscarriage, which is not uncommon in mammals, especially during the first trimester.

“Artificially inseminating an elephant is a technique that enhances animal welfare,” said Dr. Nancy Hawkes, the zoo’s general curator and resident expert in elephant reproduction. It’s enriching for the herd to include calves and this technique allows us to help females get pregnant without needing to transport them to another institution that houses bulls, spending months away from their home and social group.

“The new technology was developed less than 20 years ago by scientists at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research of Berlin,” explained Hawkes. “Because female elephants have a very complex reproductive system, we combine endoscope-guided technology with precise hormonal and ultrasound data to pinpoint ovulation and time the procedures accordingly.” More than 20 elephant calves have been born over the last 10 years through artificial insemination.

“A baby would help us begin to re-build a multigenerational social group here at the zoo,” said Hawkes. Chai was the mother of Hansa, a female elephant who was born at the zoo in 2000 and died unexpectedly at 6½ years old from a newly discovered elephant herpesvirus.

As elephants in the wild continue to face extreme pressure from conflicts with humans, elephants in zoos are effective conservation ambassadors for their cousins in the wild. “As the pressures of habitat loss and human-elephant conflicts continue to escalate at an alarming rate, the role of zoos is more critical now than ever before,” said Marc Ancrenaz, director of the Hutan Asian Elephant Conservation project. “In zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, elephants play an important role as conservation emissaries. Seeing, hearing, and experiencing these striking animals up close can help zoo-goers make an emotional connection and be inspired to take action to protect elephants in the wild.”

The group called Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants today issued its own press release, stating that the risk of passing along the herpesvirus again was too great.

From Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants’ press release:

WPZ is a herpes-infected environment. WPZ’s records for Watoto dated May 5, 2008 state Watoto tested “positive for EEHV3a virus in her blood.”

Dr. Jennifer Conrad, DVM, an expert elephant veterinarian said: “Woodland Park Zoo is a herpes exposed facility and therefore the zoo should no longer engage in an Asian elephant breeding program. The simple truth is the risk of death for the offspring is too great.”

There is no cure for EEHV and WPZ has no infection control in place. Chai could pass the herpesvirus to her own fetus.

Elephant herpesvirus attacks the internal organs causing massive hemorrhaging and a painful, gruesome death. “To even take a chance of causing another defenseless calf such a horrific death is unconscionable and unethical” says Nancy Pennington, co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants. Herpesvirus is not a threat to wild elephants.

CommentsTags: , ,

Zoo artificially inseminates 32-year-old Asian elephant Chai

March 14th, 2011 by Doree

Last weekend, elephant management and animal health staff at Woodland Park Zoo artificially inseminated 32-year-old Asian elephant Chai.

Dr. Dennis Schmitt (standing, in maroon shirt), a leading expert in elephant reproductive physiology, helped the zoo’s elephant management and animal health staff artificially inseminate Chai. Photo by Dennis Dow, courtesy Woodland Park Zoo.

From the press release:

“The world’s leading experts on elephant health and breeding, including the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan, recommend that we breed Chai again, by artificial insemination,” explained Dr. Nancy Hawkes, the zoo’s General Curator and resident expert in elephant reproductive physiology. “A baby would be socially enriching not only for Chai, but for the herd. A successful pregnancy and birth would help us begin to re-build a multigenerational social group here at the zoo.”

A 12-year-old bull at Albuquerque Biological Park Zoo contributed the semen. With no offspring to date, he is genetically valuable to the North American population of elephants.

The gestation period for elephants is 22 months. It will be approximately 15 to 16 weeks before the zoo can confirm a pregnancy by ultrasound and through hormonal changes in Chai. If she is pregnant, her due date will be in early 2013. The last artificial insemination procedure on Chai was done last year in June. It did not result in a pregnancy.

Only 30,000-50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild, scattered across fragmented habitats in 13 Asian countries. The greatest threat to Asian elephants is habitat loss, which inevitably results in conflicts with farmers, villagers and plantation owners, resulting in human casualties and elephant deaths. Human-elephant conflict is the most widespread and difficult issue to tackle for elephants in Asia. Saving elephants requires a network of key players, including AZA zoos, conservation non-governmental organizations, government and international agencies, businesses, and range country elephant experts to collaborate and strategically work together.

Chai previously gave birth to a female, Hansa, in 2000. Hansa died suddenly 6-1/2 years later from a newly discovered elephant herpesvirus.

CommentsTags: , ,

Animal rights advocates sue Seattle over treatment of Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants

June 30th, 2010 by Doree

The Animal Legal Defense Fund yesterday filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle over what it calls Woodland Park Zoo’s poor treatment of its elephants. The suit was brought “against the Zoo for its ongoing failure to provide proper and humane facilities for the elephants in its care, resulting in a decline in their health and well being,” according to a press release.

Our news partners, The Seattle Times, has a full story here.

In more zoo elephant news, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants is having a “Stripped Down Elephant Event” from 4-6 p.m. on Friday, July 9, in front of the zoo’s north entrance.

The 3 Woodland Park Zoo elephants will be represented by 3 beautiful, stripped down girl “elephants”. One girl will be caged in a 4’ x 4’ enclosure; the human equivalent to the elephants’ barn stall. All 3 girls will perform neurotic behaviors exhibited by Bamboo, Chai and Watoto.

The 2,700 acre Elephant Sanctuary has offered to give our elephants a home for life. Come show your support for the Zoo to make this humane decision.

CommentsTags: , , ,

Animal rights group files complaint against zoo over breeding program

March 17th, 2010 by Doree

The Seattle Times reports that an animal rights organization, In Defense of Animals (IDA), has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, claiming that Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant breeding program violates the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The complaint, filed Wednesday, comes after the zoo announced it had artificially inseminated its elephant Chai.

“It is grossly irresponsible for the Woodland Park Zoo to continue breeding elephants, knowing that any infant born there faces a high risk of disease and death,” said Catherine Doyle, IDA campaign director, in a release. “IDA is calling on the USDA to stop the reckless breeding of elephants in herpes-affected zoos.”

Read reporter Susan Gilmore’s full article here.

CommentsTags: ,