Elephants advocates on both sides of the issue face off outside Seattle City Council chambers on Monday, March 9, prior to a council meeting. Supporters of the Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant program, wearing brown, wait in line alongside advocates, wearing orange, who hope the elephants, Chai and Bamboo, retire to a sanctuary. A 20 minute pubic comment period was allowed duing today’s meeting where people from both sides expressed their views. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)
The Seattle City Council chambers were packed on Monday, March 3, with advocates on both sides voicing opinions about the fate of the Woodland Park Zoo’s two remaining Asian elephants, Chai and Bamboo.
Wearing brown tee shirts, supporters of the Woodland Park Zoo argued zoo programs are helpful for conservation purposes and that the Oklahoma City Zoo is a world class facility for Seattle’s elephants.
Supporters wishing the elephants would be retired to a sanctuary wore orange tee shirts and argued zoos are no place for the free roaming animals, especially Oklahoma City which boasts extreme temperatures that would result in more time locked in the barns.
Earlier in the day the Elephant Justice Project held a press conference announcing a new lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court against the Woodland Park Zoo claiming the city had no right to turn over ownership of Chai and Bamboo in 2002. The press release stated:
Knoll Lowney, an attorney for EJP, summarizes: “The lawsuit is powerful in its simplicity. The Legislature passed a law in 2000 that allowed the City to contract with the Zoo Society to operate and manage the zoo, but the City had no legal authority to give away all of the animals and equipment. Our state Constitution prohibits such gifts. The 2002 agreement giving Chai and Bamboo to the Zoo Society is illegal and unconstitutional, so the Zoo Society has no authority to decide their fate.”
The zoo has agreed not to move the elephants to Oklahoma before April 3rd when the court is expected to rule on the Elephant Justice Project’s motion for preliminary injunction.
The Elephant Justice Project also handed out documents alleging Chai and Bamboo are likely infected with the same herpes virus that killed Chai’s baby, seven-year-old Hansa, in 2007. Watoto, an African elephant belonging to the Woodland Park Zoo until it died suddenly last year, also tested positive for the highly contagious virus according to papers.
A clip of the Seattle city council meeting can be heard here.