This Bullied Elephant’s Story is Everything That’s Wrong With Zoos

What could have been a happy ending for three elephants from the Woodland Park Zoo in Washington state has turned into a story that keeps going from bad to worse and has left the sole survivor in need of help.

For years, animal advocates had fought to get Watoto, an African elephant, along with Bamboo and Chai, two Asian elephants, moved from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo to a sanctuary.

The zoo had faced serious criticism from both members of the public and animal advocacy organizations, including Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and In Defense of Animals, which argued that two species of elephants should never have been put together, and that all three suffered from both physical and psychological problems as a result of captivity.

Sadly, after spending more than four decades on display while being denied the companionship of her own kind, Watoto was euthanized in 2014 after keepers arrived one morning and found her down and unable to get up. Her tragic death left Bamboo and Chai behind and added to the controversy surrounding the zoo. It also fueled calls to move them to a sanctuary.

Later that year, animal advocates won a bittersweet victory when the zoo announced that it would be closing its elephant exhibit. Unfortunately for Bamboo and Chai, there would be no sunny sanctuary retirement in their future. Instead, despite widespread pleas to do the right thing for them, they were moved to the Oklahoma City Zoo last year where more tragedy would follow.

Just eight months after arriving, Chai was dead too. When the zoo made the announcement, it said she received regular checkups and “seemed to be healthy.” Later, the truth would come out after her records revealed that she was in fact very sick. In the months leading up to her death she had injuries and abscesses on her feet, an infection in her blood and she suffered from problems chewing. She was also emaciated and had trouble getting herself up on multiple occasions.

A heartbreaking image taken the month before she died makes it very apparent that all was not well, but the zoo still insisted her death was a surprise.

Yesterday our organization filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (OSBVME) alleging…

Posted by Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants on Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sadly, it’s believed that Chai’s presence also caused the death of Malee, a young calf who died from endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV), which Chai was a known carrier of. It’s also what killed Chai’s own daughter Hansa in 2007.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants has since filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners calling for an investigation over the zoo’s failure to provide proper care for Chai, but the story still isn’t over.

Bamboo, who is now the sole survivor of this botched move from Seattle to another zoo, is also suffering at her new confines. It was hoped she would become the matriarch of herd in Oklahoma, but Bamboo isn’t going along with the plan.

Newly released records show they don’t like her, and she apparently doesn’t care for them either. She is bullied and has suffered serious injuries as a result, including one to her tail that was described as an “amputation.” She has also attacked a calf herself and is now often kept in isolation. She has lost over 1,000 pounds since last May, and has continued to suffer from other health problems.

The zoo still insists she is fine, but definitely didn’t want those records to get out. It denied public record requests to both Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and the Seattle Times. According to the Seattle Times, they were eventually obtained by Kurt Hochenauer, an animal welfare advocate and professor at the University of Central Oklahoma who had to retrieve them in person.

While it’s abundantly clear Bamboo is not doing well there, the zoo still has no intention of letting her go. Still, her advocates aren’t giving up yet.

“We are not going to stop until Bamboo can rest in peace and live out her golden years in a humane way, not being bullied and chased by other animals and living in a tiny zoo yard,” said Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.


Please sign and share the petition asking the Oklahoma City Zoo to send Bamboo to an accredited sanctuary where she can live out her days in peace.

For more information and updates on the situation, visit Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer1 years ago

I signed the petition a year ago, 2016,

David C
David C1 years ago


Peggy B
Peggy B1 years ago


Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

petition signed & shared

Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Who runs these self proclaimed zoos? Sadists and crminals?

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Why do these damn zoos care more for greed than the good of the animal. These stories get so depressing when it is the same all the time. Zoos doing nothing for the animals they are supposed to be caring for. It is no wonder so many people are now calling for zoo closures.

Telica R.
Telica R2 years ago

Poor sweety
Please someone help and rescue

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

They belong to the wild, not the human

Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela2 years ago

Please send this poor elephant to a sanctuary where she can live the rest of her life. Petition signed

kathy bonard
kathy bonard2 years ago

Very disturbing, I am heartbroken how animals are treated by "humans".How anyone can refuse an animal a happy life is beyond me.Zoos should be closed down and people in a job of trust like this should be horsewhipped.