Letters to the editors: In close quarters

Dear Anne-Marije and Council Member Sally Bagshaw,
Thank you for writing the recent article about the Woodland Park Zoo elephants.  It was well written and well rounded.  I appreciate you taking the time to look into the situation. 
I worry that the "free the elephant" supporters come across as nutty animal rights activists working for a silly cause.  They are passionate people who see injustice and want to fix it.  We all have different ways and styles of going about it.  It appears that none of the ways and styles are effective.
I have written numerous letters to the Zoo and to the City Council.  Sometimes I get a response, but it is always the same.  The elephants are fine and the zoo is taking good care of them.  I see it differently and even went to the Zoo Board meeting to speak out about it despite my intense fear of public speaking. 
I really appreciate a new, independent, outside perspective writing about the issue and do hope that someday the Zoo and the Board realize the what they are providing isn't best for the elephants.
Thanks again.
Samantha Everett
Seattle, WA


Dear Ms. Rook,
Thank you for your recent story in the Ballard News Tribune about the heart breaking story of the Woodland Park Zoo elephants.  It’s almost unbelievable that a city such as Seattle where drivers stop their cars to let ducklings cross the street and people sit on the beach in West Seattle to protect baby sea lions that our wonderful Woodland Park Zoo can be so tone deaf.  I am confident that if people knew more about this situation the zoo would have to find a creative and humane solution.  Your story has touched my heart.
Nancy J. Dapper
Seattle, WA


Hello, I just read your article.

I remember my grandmother taking us for rides on the baby elephants at the zoo, I was maybe seven.  The thought of it horrifies me now, but I've believed that the Woodland Park Zoo mentality has evolved.  After hearing the hours elephants spend at the zoo being impaled with long tubes, and  confined in bare, isolated cells is outrageous.  Does Bruce Upchurch have stock in Nuclear Energy? Or maybe TransOcean Oil Rigs? Is his real objective the  2% who could balance the budget and social services and health care by paying taxes like the rest of us? Because continuing these barbaric acts against elephants is the same mentality.  It's about money!  And that makes Upchurch nothing but a cheap crook.  The real issue: Who put him in charge?

Thank you for caring.

Pam Pulver


I challenge Bruce Upchurch to explain his claim that The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee does not have "the same type of care, [or] expertise” that the WPZ elephants supposedly enjoy. (“In close quarters: local activists continue to demand more space for the Woodland Park Zoo elephants,” 3-29-2011).

Are Seattleites supposed to believe that providing “items to push and pull,” offering “food games,” and conducing “strictly experimental” artificial insemination are superior forms of care? Is this the type of treatment zoo officials would want if they were unable to protect their own interests?

And what expertise justifies keeping these creatures on display when they have been offered a home on 2,700 acres? A child with no training could see that elephants would rather roam free in a sanctuary than be confined to one acre of yard space and a few holding pens.

Although zoo and city officials show no signs of budging, I believe that WPZ will eventually shut down its elephant exhibit as other zoos have done. Let’s hope it happens while Watoto, Chai, and Bamboo are still alive to enjoy it.

Amy Freeman
Seattle, WA


Dear Anne-Marije,

Thank you to Ballard News Tribune and to Christy Wolyniak for writing an excellent story regarding the plight of Chai, Bamboo and Watoto - the Woodland Park Zoo elephants.

I must admit that I continue to be amazed at how vehemently some zoos cling to their elephants while at the same time acknowledging that they cannot provide for them adequately - marginally maybe but even that is a stretch. Why do individuals, such as Mr. Upchurch, responsible for the care of animals insist on keeping them in inadequate environments when sanctuary and a better life has been offered and what would be the business case behind such actions? Is he suggesting that we like to see creatures displaying stereotypic behaviours - "Look the elephant is dancing"! Uh no ... this is a disorder that results from boredom and other stresses caused by living in an unnatural environment. These poor animals have been taken from their natural habitats, have been forced to live in a small unnatural quarters, and, to add to their misery, are required to live in an animal grouping that is just not working.

I truly believe that Chai, Bamboo and Watoto would thrive at The Elephant Sanctuary. Just go to www.elephants.com and read the stories of the elephants that have been moved to this sanctuary - why would Seattle Zoo officials thinks "our elephants" are any different? My hope is that in 2011 we are far more enlightened and that the public's tolerance for cruelty in the name of public amusement (under the guise of education or, better yet, conservation) is lessening. I would like to add my voice to the many asking the Woodland Park Zoo to do the right thing and retire Chai, Bamboo and Watoto to a Sanctuary after many years of unpaid service to the City.

Gert Zagler


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