Elephant Abuse at Zoo Leads to Lawsuit

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on June 29, 2010

Chai weaves from side to side, mindlessly shifting her massive 8,550 pound body to her right foot then back to her left foot… over and over… day after day. The thirty-one-year-old Asian elephant was born in the wild in Thailand, then captured as a baby and brought to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington.

The hard-packed surface she stands on has caused chronic, extremely painful injuries to her feet and joints. She has been artificially inseminated at least fifty-seven times, and has suffered multiple miscarriages resulting in physical and psychological pain.

Yet the City of Seattle uses taxpayer money to fund this institutionalized abuse.

That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund is representing two outraged citizens who are filing a lawsuit today against the City of Seattle. The lawsuit aims to stop the City’s unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to support the Woodland Park Zoo’s reckless and illegally cruel treatment of its elephants.

As a result of inadequate facilities, abusive management practices, longstanding intentional neglect, and breeding practices in callous disregard for elephants’ welfare, the Zoo’s elephants Bamboo, Watoto, and Chai suffer from severe and chronic foot and joint injuries, unexplained physical trauma and bleeding, and sustained psychological harm. Chai’s daughter, Hansa, died in 2007 when she was only six years old as a result of the Zoo’s practices. A fourth Woodland Park Zoo elephant, Sri, who is currently on loan to another zoo’s breeding program, has endured the horror of carrying a full-term deceased fetus in her womb for over four years.

Help win justice for Chai, Bamboo, Watoto and Sri! Here are three ways you can help right now:

Shamefully, the Woodland Park Zoo continues to use taxpayer money to exploit its elephants for profit while failing to provide them with adequate care. Together, we can stop this abuse.

6 thoughts on “Elephant Abuse at Zoo Leads to Lawsuit

  1. Merry says:

    JUST CURIOUS … I too am 1,000% for getting those poor elephants out of that zoo, but why is The Elephant Sanctuary the only choice? Considering the firing of Carol Buckley at TES and the questionable practices of its board, not to mention the anger it has generated with its (former) supporters, it seems PAWS to be a more settled choice. Barring all that, PAWS in CA is actually closer Seattle, why would ADLF recommend a longer trip to TN?

  2. anonymous says:

    The Woodland Park Zoo was one of the first zoos in the country to provide natural style enclosures for its animals. The case for the elephants seems sad, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the zoo isn’t great.

    I did volunteer there when I was in high school. I only volunteered with the entomologists, but (then at least) they treated their arthropods well.

    The Woodland Park Zoo has also had problems with their budget recently, as is obvious in the fact that they had to close down their nocturnal house, meaning they may not have the funding to redo the elephant enclosure to more modern standards.

    I understand your concern, libelous attacks only diminish the impact of your cause.

  3. Animal Legal Defense Fund says:

    Hi Merry,
    Thanks so much for your support. Please know that many factors go into our consideration of each issue, but generally these are not things we can discuss while litigation is pending. Rest assured that the animals’ welfare is always at the front of our minds.

  4. Allen Nyhuis says:

    Sorry, but there is so much wrong with this cause. The Woodland Park Zoo has one of the best elephant exhibits in America. While no exhibit is perfect, it’s a lot better than either of these “sanctuaries”, which are unregulated — unlike any AZA zoo. Modern American zoos have dedicated zookeepers who care for their animals, including the elephants, with care and concern. Sadly, those who are opposing zoos are more interested in their political goals. If your goal is the extinction of elephants, then close down the zoos! That would be the result.

    Allen Nyhuis, Coauthor: America’s Best Zoos

  5. Eden Courtney says:

    I have never understood those people who accuse animal rights advocates of “just wanting to pursue their political agendas” what does that even mean? The only agenda I have is to eliminate the egregious suffering inflicted on wild animals being held in inadequate, outdated, exhibits in zoos. The AZA is an industry organization dedicated to promoting its own “political agenda” which is for profit zoos. The sanctuaries in questions are without question more appropriate for elephants than any zoo. According to the AZA standards, I could keep 3 elephants in my 1200 square foot condo. Do some research. Go to the websites for these sanctuaries and you can see for yourself how all the animals and especially the elephants thrive.

  6. QUID says:


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