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


Group plans to file suit against Woodland Park Zoo over elephant care

February 3rd, 2015 by Doree

The Elephant Justice Project, affiliated with Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, has notified the zoo of its intent to sue over allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act in its care of elephants and its plan to transfer them to another zoo.

The letter serves as notice that the EJP intends to file a complaint in federal court on the first day permitted in mid-March. The letter describes the conditions that cause Chai and Bamboo physical and psychological harm forbidden by the ESA, including the tiny exhibit and Seattle’s cold, wet climate. The letter also charges that WPZ cannot qualify for the federal permit that it would need to legally ship Chai and Bamboo to another zoo.

In addition to WPZ, the EJP put five zoos and an exotic species transportation company on notice of its impending claim of ESA violations. The five zoos include the Denver and L.A. zoos, to which WPZ has threatened to relocate Seattle’s elephants. The transport company WPZ could likely use for the move has provided such substandard and dangerous care to animals being relocated that a recent transfer ended in the death of an elephant during a move from one zoo to another.

“Since Woodland Park Zoo refuses to this date to even consider retiring Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary, the EJP was forced to pursue this litigation strategy to ensure that the elephants are not sent to another, equally deplorable zoo,” said EJP co-founder Alyne Fortgang.

The zoo announced in November that it eventually would close its elephant exhibit and sent Chai and Bamboo to another zoo. Friends of Woodland Park Zoo has pressured the zoo for years to send them to a sanctuary instead.

You can download a PDF of the Intent to Sue letter here.

I contacted the zoo today about the lawsuit. Here is their official statement:

Woodland Park Zoo has received the letter from FOWPZE giving 60 days’ notice of its intent to sue over alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. The Zoo does not comment on threatened or pending litigation.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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