On the afternoon of April 15th, the Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) hastily removed Chai and Bamboo from the Zoo’s elephant exhibit and began their journey to the Oklahoma City Zoo. A day and a half later the Zoo announced that the elephants were diverted from their trip to the Oklahoma Zoo by what the Zoo claims was an unexpected storm in the Colorado Rockies and Wyoming. Yet on Wednesday April 15th, CEO Deborah Jensen claimed in a statement that:
“…it is important for us to move them now while the weather conditions are favorable.” (Ref. here)
It is now clear that the Zoo’s statements on “favorable weather” were allegedly false or inaccurate. USA Today national weather reports from the morning of April 15th show that a snow storm was predicted to hit Salt Lake City on Wednesday evening (April 15th) and another massive snow storm was predicted to hit the Western Colorado Rockies and Southern Wyoming on Thursday morning (April 16th).
By mid-day Thursday, April 17th, new details about Wednesday’s elephant departure from WPZ were starting to come to light. The Seattle Times reported that Council member Kshama Sawant had been working with City Attorney Pete Holmes to stop the transfer of Chai and Bamboo to another zoo. City Councillors and Mayor Murray have always had the power to stop the Zoo from transferring the elephants to another zoo. Council member Sawant bravely sought to evoke that power and continues her effort today.
A statement from Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants explains the sequence of events last week:
“On Friday the 10th, Council Member Kshama Sawant wrote a letter to the City Council and Mayor alerting them to an Ordinance being written by Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney. The Ordinance was completed on the 15th—the day Bamboo and Chai were shipped out. ”
Yet, Zoo leaders continue to allegedly deny the facts of this elephant transfer. In an email to a constituent this morning (Sunday April 19th), WPZ Curator Nancy Hawkes, states, “The storm was unpredicted and not showing on any forecasts until the crew got to Salt Lake.”
However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report from the morning of April 15th states otherwise. The report at 3:22 AM claims that “Heavy snow on it’s way to the Central Rockies” (full report below).
With Chai and Bamboo at a holding location at the San Diego Zoo, advocates and the City are continuing to pursue sanctuary for the elephants. By most accounts, the fact that the elephants are in San Diego does not limit the City of Seattle’s authority over the transfer of the elephants. The City can still act to require that the elephants go to a sanctuary.
The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), an elephant sanctuary in Northern California, has offered for the second time to take the animals, and give them 15 acres of woodland for them to roam in comfort.
More information can be found on the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants Facebook Page.
Weather report screen shots from USA Today: