Remembering Hansa on the seventh anniversary of her death.
On Saturday, June 7th, several dozen supporters of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants gathered at the Zoo’s west entrance under the mid-morning sun of a beautiful spring day to hold a silent vigil in memory of the seventh anniversary of the death of baby elephant Hansa. Hansa died from EEHV, having been passed the herpes virus from her mother, Chai, who herself was exposed to EEHV while at Dickerson Park Zoo. Woodland Park Zoo was well aware of the danger of Chai contracting EEHV from Dickerson when they sent her there to be bred, but decided that the possibility of Chai coming back pregnant and the subsequent gate receipts an elephant calf would bring far outweighed any potential health risks.
Former Woodland Park Zoo Director David Hancocks’ summed up Hansa’s life, some of the abuse she endured, and the reason behind her breeding in a June 2007 article for the Seattle Post Intelligencer following the calf’s death: Hansa’s Short Life One of Deprivation.
After a short meditation was observed, the group of orange-clad mourners made their way to the Zoo’s elephant exhibit to hold a second silent vigil, where tears were openly shed as Bamboo, and then Chai, made appearances in the drab and uninspiring exhibit space. Chai – who the Zoo tried, unsuccessfully, to artificially inseminate 112 times after the death of Hansa – was seen trying to browse underneath the exhibit’s fence line, desperate to find something besides the prison food afforded her by the Zoo. Like the myth of Tantalus, so close yet so far away.
Following the second vigil, one last stop to place flowers at a statue of Hansa the Zoo erected following her death. More tears, more silence, and more questions surrounding the need to keep these large, sentient creatures on display for public amusement and the horrible cost that’s paid, willfully, arrogantly, in search of profit and prestige.
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