As has been reported extensively here, Watoto was one of three elephants at Woodland Park Zoo, living in cramped confines alongside two Asian females, Bamboo and Chai. Controversy over the zoo’s elephant breeding program led to a Zoo-appointed task force last year, whose majority recommended that Watoto be shipped to another zoo to make room for a breeding elephant.
How Watoto’s death will affect the Zoo’s plans to continue their breeding program remains unknown at this time.
Advocates, including ourselves, have argued that Woodland Park Zoo should do the humane thing and close their elephant exhibit and retire its occupants to an elephant sanctuary. In 2012 the Seattle Times ran a multi-part exposé on elephants in captivity, publishing data showing that for every elephant calf born in zoos two die, and that in general elephants in captivity suffer and provide no real conservation value.
Our hearts go out to Watoto, and to everyone who raised their voice in her name.
We would like to strongly encourage Woodland Park Zoo to do the right thing and retire Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary where they can live out their days in a space better suited for these magnificent animals than the prison cell they are currently afforded. And we would like to encourage our readers to write the Zoo, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and the Seattle City Council, and add their voices to the growing chorus calling for sanctuary.
Travel well, Watoto.