Zoo Responds To Bamboo Attacks

The Oklahoma City Zoo has responded to questions I asked about what I see as the precarious living conditions of its elephant Bamboo, which I outlined in my last post.

The general thrust of OKC Zoo’s argument—zoos contribute to the welfare of elephants as an overall threatened animal population and help try to prevent their extinction—is something I clearly referred to and discussed in the initial post so there’s nothing new there, although I do quote the response in full below out of fairness. I understand this argument, but I don’t agree with the solution for it.

This is from Candice Rennels, the marketing and public relations manager for the zoo:

As stated on the medical records that you have for Bamboo during those dates, we suspect that her tail wound was caused by the bite of a conspecific, although we have no visual evidence to substantiate that. We also suspect that this was caused as the elephants established their dominance hierarchy. Developing these relationships is a normal and necessary process as a new group becomes established. Since the last incident in March, we have not seen any recurrence. We would also like to point out that much of the misinformation that is being stated about zoos ignoring sound science is false. Zoos have in fact been in support of not only funding the science behind elephant welfare, but requiring the management of elephants based on those scientific findings. I would encourage anyone to visit [this] website to review the most up to date scientific articles on elephant welfare and how zoos are playing an important role.

”Conspecific” means a member of the same species or, in this case, another elephant. I also encourage everyone to go to the site listed above by Rennels. The debate over keeping elephants healthy in captivity in smaller enclosures, such as zoos, has been around for a long time.

(Click "Read more" to continue reading.)

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OKC Zoo Elephant Bamboo Endures Attacks, Isolation

Image of the OKC Zoo elephant Bamboo

(Transfer the Oklahoma City Zoo elephant Bamboo, pictured above, to a sanctuary right away and let’s begin a discussion about how and when we’re going to close the elephant exhibit at the zoo.—Kurt Hochenauer)

Bamboo, the sole surviving elephant obtained by the Oklahoma City Zoo from a Seattle zoo, has suffered attacks from at least one or more elephants in her exhibit and is apparently kept frequently in isolation, according to zoo records.

The zoo documents were obtained through open-records requests by the Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants organization in Seattle. I personally retrieved the most recent set of documents at the Oklahoma City Zoo offices for the Seattle organization on Aug. 17.

Those records, along with previously obtained records, show 49-year-old Bamboo has had her tail bitten and, in one case, suffered “bleeding from its tail amputation site.” Later her trunk was gashed after another elephant charged her. Another elephant, 37-year-old Chai, also obtained by the Oklahoma City Zoo from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in 2015, died in January. Yet another elephant at the zoo, 4-year-old Malee, died last October.

The elephant deaths and Bamboo’s precarious living situation should obviously raise questions about the level of care given to elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo and just the difficulty of keeping large captive animals healthy under a real quality-of-life paradigm. Is it even reasonable to assume elephants can thrive in Oklahoma’s geographical and environmental conditions or in any zoo at all?

The Oklahoma City Zoo obtained the Seattle-based elephants in 2015 when Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, like some other zoos, decided to end their elephant exhibit because of overall concerns about keeping the large animals in captivity.

As Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of the Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, points out: “Zoos ignore scientific knowledge when it comes to an elephant's physical and psychological welfare. Elephants die young and suffer every single day in zoo confinement. It's time for the Oklahoma City Zoo to retire the elephants to a sanctuary - anything less diminishes our humanity."

From the obtained documents:

(Click "Read more" to continue reading.)

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A Lingering Cloud of Doom

The huge methane cloud hovering over the country’s Four Corners region, according to NASA, has been tied to national gas operations in that region.

At least it isn’t in Oklahoma, right? Well, oil and gas operators here are also grappling with new federal initiatives dealing with methane emissions, which is a greenhouse gas even more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

The Four Corners region is where the states Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. A NASA-led study, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed a cloud of methane the size of the state of Delaware hovering over the region. The cloud mainly consists of methane from oil and gas emissions and leaks.

One report on the development stated:

Methane is a key component of natural gas. The hot spot is not a local safety or health issue, but methane does contribute to global warming. Methane is 86 times more potent for trapping heat in the short-term than carbon dioxide.

The point here is obvious: Oil and gas operations and storage are a dirty business that need more, not less, regulation in terms of protecting the environment. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is endangering the entire planet because of the acceleration of global warming.

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