Watoto, the Woodland Park Zoo’s only African elephant, died today Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Zoo keepers found the 45-year-old-elephant unable to get up this morning and humanely euthanized her according to a press release.
“Woodland Park Zoo keepers arrived early Friday morning and saw Watoto lying down in the elephant yard and unable to move to an upright position, which is unusual for her. Elephant keepers and animal health staff first attempted lifting Watoto to her feet with the support of cloth straps and later with careful assistance of heavy machinery. Woodland Park Zoo’s animal health staff were present to assess Watoto’s well-being and provide emergency care, though it was apparent her health was quickly declining and she would likely become more uncomfortable as hours passed. With compassion and sadness, Woodland Park Zoo’s keepers and animal health staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her.”
Watoto’s childhood began in the African jungle in 1969 or 1970. Born in the wild, she was captured and transported to the Woodland Park Zoo while still a baby at age two.
She spent the next 43 years of her life in the one-acre habitat at the zoo shared with two other elephants, Bamboo and Chai, who are Asian elephants.
The zoo announced it will publicly release a report as to the cause of her death in the next several weeks.
An investigation into the Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant program was published in the Seattle Times in 2012. Among other things, it outlined that elephants in zoos typically die younger than their counterparts in the wild and that American zoo’s programs to breed captive elephants have failed.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in a statement today suggested revisiting the cities’ policies with respect to the Woodland Park Zoo elephants.
Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants will be holding a vigil at noon, on Saturday, August 23. Their attempts to have the elephants released to a sanctuary have been met with resistance from the zoo and silence from the city. Last month in a King County Superior Court Judge Jean A. Rietschel ruled the zoo had a right to withhold information from the public regarding the elephant’s conditions.