ALDF Speaks Up for Elephants at Woodland Park Zoo

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 17, 2015


Elephants Bamboo and Chai are suffering immensely in the Seattle-based Woodland Park Zoo. That’s why, today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (with the pro bono assistance of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher) submitted a friend of the court brief in support of the right of Seattle taxpayers to see records about the conditions in which the elephants at Woodland Park Zoo are kept. Open records lawsuits are crucial to safeguarding the ability of the public to advocate for and protect animals in captivity.

ALDF’s amicus brief comes after a trial court denied a Seattle taxpayer these records. The trial court held the taxpayer was not entitled to the records because the zoo is not performing a governmental function, despite the fact that it receives millions of tax dollars every year from the city to operate the zoo. ALDF’s brief argues that the zoo is subject to the state’s Public Records Act as a government-funded entity.

The public has been increasingly outraged by conditions of captivity at the zoo. Last year, Watoto, a 45-year old African elephant, was euthanized after keepers found her suffering from arthritis so badly she couldn’t move to an upright position. Harmful management, longstanding neglect, and inhumane breeding practices have hurt elephants like Bamboo, Watoto, and Chai. These elephants suffer severe and chronic foot and joint problems, unexplained bleeding, and psychological damage.

Elephants are sensitive, intelligent, family-oriented, and social, and require wide expanses for their well-being. But that’s not what they get at the Woodland Park Zoo. Chai has been treated like a breeding machine: inseminated over 100 times, her only live birth, Hansa, died at just six years old. Chai and her fellow pachyderm prisoners demonstrate severe psychological suffering, compounded by pathetically small enclosures that prevent them from engaging in many natural behaviors.

For more than a century, the zoo used taxpayer dollars to support the cruel treatment of animals. The zoo’s origins lie in Seattle’s 1899 purchase of 200 acres on the southwest shore of Green Lake. From the beginning, the zoo has been fundamentally beholden to the people of Seattle. In 2010, ALDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Seattle taxpayers against the zoo for cruel treatment of elephants. That lawsuit was dismissed by the court on standing, a procedural ground—but the court expressed concern about holding elephants captive and did not exonerate the zoo’s treatment of the elephants.

As cities begin to partially privatize their zoos, taxpayers risk losing their right to know how animals are treated in these facilities. This threat to transparency undermines public records laws, as ALDF argues in its brief. The Woodland Park Zoo has announced it will send the zoo’s two surviving elephants to the Oklahoma City Zoo—against the wishes of Seattle taxpayers, the majority of the city council, and the mayor, who all want to see Bamboo and Chai retired to a reputable sanctuary.



32 thoughts on “ALDF Speaks Up for Elephants at Woodland Park Zoo

  1. Debbie Chivers says:

    This abuse of these beautiful animals have to stop!

  2. ursula bateman says:


  3. Linda mallery says:

    i am so glad some one with influence is trying to help these beautiful creatures live out the rest of their life at a sanctuary. They have suffered enough. Please stop them from sending Bamboo and Chai to another zoo.

    Seattle is my hometown but we have been helpless to intervene.

  4. tania says:

    Since they can’t properly care for the beautiful pacaderms send the to santuaries where they will be properly taken care of

  5. Coralie Benton says:

    Do the right thing by these magnificent, beautiful animals and release them to live out the rest of their lives, happily and freely, in an elephant sanctuary, ie. The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee…they so deserve it!

  6. Tina says:

    SHAME on the administrators of the Woodland Park Zoo! Those elephants deserve to be retired to a reputable sanctuary!

  7. Pinke Andersson says:

    Don’t you think it’s time? These poor elephants have done enough for you,now it is your turn! It really is!
    Nothing in this world will make this acceptable any more. One is dead,isn’t that enough?You must care about animals,otherwise what’s the point?
    Make the right thing,give them some happiness for the last years and that means Sanctuary and warm climate!

    1. Angela Rae says:

      Well said, Pinke!

  8. Roberta Bown says:

    Zoos are no place for elephants. They do not support conservation because if they did, they would not keep elephants in small confined spaces, and use bull hooks to control them. This is not how to treat animals.

  9. Jen Mcarthur says:

    This and SeaWorld should be shut down! Animals are NOT OURS!

  10. Chuck LaMark says:

    My life ambition is to save all animals from death and suffering via cruel humans. This cruel life that Bamboo is living must stop. She, like all living creatures, has rights… a right to live her natural life in peace. We not only destroy their environment, we also abuse them. Humans are the only evil. The cost of destroying animals is severe to human continued existence.

  11. Angela Rae says:

    Thank you for shedding even more light on the devastation of Zoo life on our City’s two remaining and suffering elephants, Chai and Bamboo. I believe there is one error in your statement aboce. Chai has not been artificially inseminated 60 times, it is 112 times. What kind of suffering did she endure during these invasive proceedures. It is time to set these animals free WP Zoo. SANCTUARY NOW!

  12. Angela Rae says:


  13. joan huddleston says:

    The cruelty must end. They have suffered long and lived with terrible tragedy. It must stop. thank you for doing this.
    the elephants must go to sanctuary.

  14. ldrboyle says:

    Time to set these elephants free!

  15. Kellie Valentine says:

    These elephants need to live a peaceful and healthy life. Clearly this zoo refuses to acknowledge the abuse and neglect they have continued to heap on these beautiful animals. When does the law stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves? In addition to freeing the elephants actions should be taken to close this zoo and move the animals to a caring facility that will allow them to roam as they should

  16. Emi says:

    have a heart, animals have rights too! <3

  17. Andrea says:

    Is there a petition to sign?

  18. katie says:

    Be nice to Elephants

  19. Sandra Wilentz says:

    Please move Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary in an appropriate climate – they have suffered beyond measure at the Woodland Zoo and at their stage they simply cannot tolerate anymore damp chilly weather. Based on videos of their back and forth swaying, they’re obviously in severe emotional and psychological distress. Please show compassion towards them… They’ve given all they have to give. It’s time to retire them from zoos and commercial displays of all kinds and allow them to enjoy the years left to them in peace, freedom and love.

  20. Cindy Wines says:

    Haven’t these elephants suffered enough? Why do they want to see thenm suffer more by sending them to another crappy zoo. PAWS which has 2500 acres, warm weather, grass, trees, ponds and HAPPY elephant has been fighting to take them. Don’t they CARE about these elephants??? Give them their last years in a happy place. Please be compassionate and think of their good health and happiness. Poor Watoto suffered enough always being cooped up. There has never been enough room. Send then to PAWS!!

  21. sihar Aquino says:

    Free these amazing animals. They say that you can judge the social progression of a society by the way they treat animals, the elderly, the disabled and children. We unfortunately, have some way to go. Freeing these animals shouldn’t even be an issue, it’s the humane thing to do.

  22. jane lewis says:

    Do the right thing and release these 2 elephants to the safe sanctuary.
    I am a Canadian BC and feel so badly for this cruelty that is allowed to continue .
    I don’t really understand why Seattle taxpayers allow this to happen .
    Come on Seattle do something

  23. Cynthia Krakoff says:

    Please let the elephants go to the sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives… They have more than earned their freedom!

    We have evolved into a people who no longer wants to see animals in circuses only to perform for us, only to be held captive from their natural lives.The Zoos should never be for large wild animals anymore, as it is dangerous in so many ways. We have the Animal Planet on TV, we have computers to find out all we want about animals… We don’t need them LOCKED UP!!!


  24. Ragnhild Klum Nyberg says:

    Please set these intelligent, majestic animals free! They deserve to get their life back!

  25. Sharon Keller says:

    Residents of Seattle please do something to help these mistreated elephants. They don’t deserve this horrible existence. How can you even visit this zoo knowing this is taking place. How do you explain it to your children? Please stop this now and have them released to a sanctuary.

  26. Molly Nicoletta says:

    Woodland Park Zoo has shown it’s true colors that they don’t care about the elephants best interest, but are more interested in spite at the groups fighting for sanctuary for Chai & Bamboo. Deborah Jensen should resign. She is not a progressive zoo leader. As far as I’m concerned, I will Boycott Woodland Park Zoo until Chai & Bamboo go to sanctuary.

  27. Kimber miller says:

    This is not the proper climate for those elephants, thus their aching bones

  28. debbie turner says:


  29. Anna Lerner says:

    So boycotting seattle!

  30. L Engler says:

    If the Seattle zoo can’t take care of one species, what makes anyone think they can take care of ANY species> Shut down the zoo for cruelty cases YOU KNOW are there.

  31. sharon chang says:

    remember to never go to the zoo and to tell everyone you know that zoos are places of cruelty and death!speak up,some people actually have the good sense to listen!

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