Sunday, December 21, 2014

Elephant Sanctuary or Bust

Allow me to present clever Christmas Carols about sending Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo Elephants to a Sanctuary, arranged by Ken and the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants folks.

How did we get here, you ask?

Back in early 2010, my do-gooder husband happened upon a display at the Ballard Farmer's Market detailing The Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants work about getting the three animals to a sanctuary. I would have never guessed in a million years that he would have taken up this cause. But in my old age, I am more often surprised than proven right when it comes to Ken.

By July of 2010, Ken produced an animated video succinctly detailing the exact plight of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and putting things in perspective.

Despite being Riveting, heartbreaking and obvious about what to do next, it seemed like the arguments of the elephant activists fell on deaf zoo board ears.

I must admit though, (and I can't believe I felt this way) the zoo was a great place to take young kids: amenities everywhere, it's fenced and enclosed, everyone loves to see animals and you get exercise walking around outside. I even had fond memories of going to the zoo myself as a child and I wanted my kids to have that too. But despite whatever nostalgic ideal I had in my mind, that was a selfish way to look at it and conveniently disregarded the animals themselves. I soon realized this.

Come 2012, rumors and rumblings surfaced that an unflattering article detailing the plight of the elephants would surface. And so it did. The Seattle Times published a damning expose' called Glamour Beasts about the Zoo's treatment of elephants and the quest to produce a newborn baby elephant. It's a gut-wrenching read and will make you feel simultaneously angry and guilty for ever patronizing a zoo. General opinion began to shift. In response, the Zoo incredulously dug in it's heels and started saying it was going to expand the elephant program by bringing in more elephants.

Then six months later, Blackfish, the documentary about the terrible conditions for orca whales at sea parks, ignited a fervor against keeping highly intelligent animals in captivity. And it hasn't let up.

This past July, Ken and I went to South Africa and we were very fortunate have a number of connective and awe-inspiring sightings of wild elephants on a 2200-acre game reserve.

The experience was nothing short of magical. So I couldn't help but have strong emotions about the two disparate elephant experiences: the zoo vs. game reserve--especially given the sudden, preventable and captivity-induced death of Woodland Park Zoo's lone African elephant, Watoto, this past August.

 So then the Zoo reversed themselves signaling the end of the elephant program.

The latest reporting this week from KUOW confirms that while the Zoo will close it's elephant program (Yay!), it plans to send the elephants to another zoo--not a sanctuary (No!). And these are last ditch efforts now to get the City of Seattle involved, to get the zoo board members to change their mind, to make them see that life in a zoo is not a life for an elephant you claim to care about.

Because an elephant in a zoo is not a full elephant, it's missing what comes from walking hundreds of miles, eating branches and fruit off trees, living amongst blood relatives and having an elephant's life. Saying that Chai and Bamboo have other work to do as species ambassadors is crap.  The Zoo Board must think we are nitwits who cannot like an animal without seeing it for our own eyes.  To which I'd like to say, can you explain the borderline obsession people have with DINOSAURS? You know, animals that have never been alive during our time.

I'd also like to point out that I fell in love with Great White Sharks at age 7 after watching Jaws and continuing to watch shark documentaries and read books about these animals well into adulthood. In wasn't until my late 20's that I *finally* stumbled upon one being rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and yet, I still loved and appreciated these animals all that time without having seen one face to face.

Ultimately this is a really long way of asking people to email to the City Council to ask them for help pressuring the zoo to send these two elephants to a sanctuary. Thank you.

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