(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:
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