Activists Call for Investigation into the Death of Chai, a 37-Year-Old Elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo
Elephant advocates are calling for an investigation following the sudden and unexpected death of Chai, a 37-year-old female Asian elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
According to the zoo, keepers discovered her body in the elephant yard early Saturday morning. It later said that “no definitive cause of death or obvious signs of infectious disease” were found following a necropsy, but its still waiting for final lab results, which could take another month or more.
Chai, and her 48-year-old companion Bamboo, were originally housed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle where they were surrounded by controversy. Their advocates had been pushing for years to get them moved to a sanctuary in California with little success.
Following the tragic death of Watoto, the Woodland Park Zoo’s lone African elephant in 2014, the zoo announced it would finally abandon misguided plans to revamp its exhibit and add more elephants, and instead opted to shut it down.
Despite widespread support from animal advocates and City Council members for sending Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary, the zoo announced it would instead be transferring them to Oklahoma.
Now Bamboo and Chai’s supporters are lamenting the fact that Chai is dead after a lifetime exploitation at the hands of the zoo industry and its refusal to do the right thing for her.
At 37, Chai would have been at the prime of her life in the wild, and still bearing calves, but Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) and now the Oklahoma City Zoo (OKC Zoo) bear the responsibility of another elephant dying prematurely. Chai’s life was filled with trauma, starting with being ripped from her mother at only one-year-old. She was beaten at Dickerson Park Zoo, suffered the heartbreak of losing her daughter, Hansa (6), and endured 112 invasive artificial inseminations.
The organization also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for an independent investigation over concerns about Chai’s care and the circumstances surrounding her untimely death.
Among other issues that could be found to be violations of the Animal Welfare Act, they’ve raised questions about the zoo’s failure to monitor her, despite knowing about her chronic health conditions, and whether intervention by keepers could have saved her or at least alleviated any suffering she may have experienced.
While it’s too late to get justice for Chai, there’s still time to help others who continue to languish in zoos. Hopefully what happened to her will help raise awareness about the ongoing problems with zoos and encourage more facilities to phase out their exhibits. Ultimately, if you love elephants, please don’t visit them in zoos – the public’s continued financial support is the only thing keeping them captive.
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