Seattle, WA (September 21, 2016) – Today, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants (Friends), a Seattle elephant advocacy group, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging that the Oklahoma City Zoo (OCZ) may be in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act for housing incompatible elephants together. Friends has grave concerns for the health and safety of Bamboo, who was moved to the OCZ from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo in 2015, as well as for the other elephants housed at the zoo.
Zoo records show that Bamboo has been the victim of aggression from the other elephants multiple times since her arrival at OCZ. They have repeatedly attacked Bamboo’s tail and in March a bite amputated about two inches. Another attack caused a six-inch gash on her trunk. Bamboo also suffered from other unexplained conditions such as edema on her abdomen, skin abrasions and fissures, and swelling above one eye—any or all of which could result from attacks.
Because the elephants are confined in a tiny, hot-wired yard, they don’t have the space or ability to escape from potential attacks. An elephant at San Diego Safari Park was killed by another elephant and on at least one occasion an elephant was killed by another at Toronto’s Zoo.
Bamboo has also shown aggression toward the other elephants. In May she pushed two-year-old Achara under a hot-wire fence. It has just been announced that has Achara tested positive for the deadly EEHV virus. Friends is especially concerned about the stress caused by aggressive incidents because stress can cause the dormant virus to break out, putting Achara’s life at risk.
Records also show that Bamboo has been separated from the other elephants overnight at least 46 times from April 2016 through mid-August. This follows the same dysfunctional regiment that Bamboo was subject to at the Woodland Park Zoo. Separation is extremely distressing to highly social animals.
Friends warned OCZ of potential integration issues with Bamboo who had already demonstrated incompatibility problems both at WPZ and Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo. In transferring Bamboo to Tacoma in 2005, WPZ warned that Bamboo’s “unpredictable behavior” posed a significant challenge in managing elephants as a “herd.” Point Defiance was unable to integrate Bamboo and returned her to Seattle less than a year later. Despite this known history, OCZ accepted Bamboo.
“Aggression between elephants in a space that does not allow for escape puts the elephants at serious risk for injury or death,” said Alyne Fortgang, Co-founder of Friends. “It was inexcusable of OCZ to have created this problem, and reprehensible of them to ignore it. It would be in the best interests of Bamboo and the other elephants to be retired to a sanctuary where they would have thousands of acres to roam and elephant companions of their own choosing.”