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Seattle Elephants Heading To Oklahoma City Zoo

Bamboo, one of two elephants at Woodland Park Zoo, will be leaving with Chai.
Flickr Photo/Cara_VSAngel (CC-BY-NC-ND)
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Bamboo, one of two elephants at Woodland Park Zoo, will be leaving with Chai.

The Woodland Park Zoo’s two remaining elephants will be moving to Oklahoma City. Zoo officials made the announcement Friday after months of debate.

Zoo president Deborah Jensen said Oklahoma City has the right environment for the elephants — it has a state of the art facility, a high caliber zoo-keeping staff, and stable leadership.  

“And what’s really exciting to me personally is that they have four female elephants — a 20-year-old, an 18-year-old, a four-year-old, and a two-month-old,” said Jensen. “And so Chai and Bamboo are going to get to join a herd of animals where they will become aunties to the herd.”

The Oklahoma City Zoo also has one male elephant, bringing the zoo’s elephant population to seven.

Chai and Bamboo’s transfer marks the end of Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant program which goes back to 1921. The program was intended to raise awareness of elephants and promote conservation, but critics say it’s had the opposite effect.

Sanctuary supporters like Alyne Fortgang say sending Chai and Bamboo to another zoo will worsen their quality of life.

“Cramming seven elephants into three acres is unconscionable. Putting them in a colder climate where there’s more lock up in a tiny barn is unconscionable. We taxpayers should speak up and say we want sanctuary for these elephants now,” Fortgang said.

Fortgang wants city officials to intervene. If they don’t, supporters plan to file a lawsuit. In the meantime, preparations are underway to relocate the elephants, a trip that’s expected to take about 40 hours, almost non-stop.

Year started with KUOW: 1994