PAWS vs Another Zoo: Where can Bamboo and Chai thrive?


In November of 2014, after almost a decade
of refusing to acknowledge the harmful effects of the zoo environment upon elephants, Woodland
Park Zoo announced the closure of its elephant exhibit. For that we commend them, but the
plan to send Bamboo and Chai to another zoo for more of the same, is unacceptable. Confining elephants in a small space so they
can be viewed is inherently cruel. Scientific American says: “Confined elephants often
spend their time standing around in cramped quarters. These torturous conditions inflict
serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals…if the
zoos have the animals’ best interests at heart, they would close their elephant exhibits.” Zoo conditions took the ultimate toll on Watoto:
lack of movement and standing on hard substrate caused her advanced arthritis and lameness.
And once down, Watoto, an otherwise healthy elephant, was too debilitated to get up. Woodland
Park Zoo, like most zoos, does not monitor their elephants. And when Watoto was discovered
to have fallen, the Zoo did not call in the assistance of the fire department with a crane
to raise Watoto which might have saved her life. Here’s an excerpt from a CBC news program
that sheds light on PAWS’ round-the-clock monitoring and the elephants’ quality of
life there. Funnily enough, Iringa was the boldest of
all. The oldes one. It almost looked like she looked back at us and said “ok, I get
it, I get it. I can go anywhere I want here, I can eat the leaves, I can eat the grass
and I’ll see ya later.” Now their job in the ecosystem is to move,
graze, defecate, replant… that’s what they’re supposed to be doing. Knock things
down and replant. You know we can give them a little bit of that here and it feels good. What’s more, at the Toronto Zoo Iringa nervously
avoided lying down, a vulnerable position for elephants. But here at PAWS, the arthritis
is being treated, the nervous swaying has mostly stopped, and for the first time, one
night in the barn, Iringa lay down. Ed Stewart says he had no idea if she’d be able to
get back up again. At two o’clock in the morning everybody
came down, everybody was called in, we called the crane, we called everybody on alert. We
were watching her and, she got up. This is Sri, an Asian elephant Woodland Park
Zoo sent to the St. Louis Zoo in 2002. She is one of 10 elephants crowded into a 2 acre
yard. The brutally cold climate forces her into this tiny cell for most of the long winter.
In response to an email inquiring about Sri’s welfare, Woodland Park Zoo replied: “[St
Louis Zoo’s] elephants live in state-of-the-art homes with lots of space . . . Sri is in excellent
hands and continues to thrive.” Well it doesn’t appear so. Bamboo and Chai have been confined in a zoo
since they were taken from their mothers as babies. No facility can give them back their
family but only at PAWS can we offer them a life that immerses them in nature. (Show
clip of elephants in woods from PAWS video while saying this.) It’s time to listen to the citizens of Seattle
and honor their conscience. Let’s send Bamboo and Chai to live out their lives off display
at PAWS – anything less diminishes our humanity.