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Petition seeking to remove elephant from Oklahoma City Zoo receives 147,000 signatures

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Zoo is speaking out after a petition surfaced in an attempt to move an elephant from the zoo to a sanctuary.

A Care2 petition that has received over 145,000 signatures is asking the Oklahoma City Zoo to send Bamboo, a female Asian elephant, to a sanctuary.

In 2015, Bamboo and Chai were transferred from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo to Oklahoma City when Seattle’s elephant exhibit closed.

Protesters fought tooth and nail to send the animals to a sanctuary instead of a zoo.

In January, Chai died at the age of 37.

“Our hearts are broken,”Tara Henson, the zoo’s director of public relations, said at the time. “There were no clinical signs of health issues with Chai. She was normal, behaving well yesterday.”

At the time, veterinarians and staff at the zoo said Chai had undergone regular checkups and appeared to be healthy.

However, they later said that she suffered from tooth abnormalities that led to her not getting the nutrition she needed.

Now, activists are fighting to have Bamboo sent to a sanctuary.

“I have followed the story of Chai and Bamboo very closely, and I have always felt that both of these elephants should have been sent to a sanctuary,” she told Care2. “While I applaud Woodland Park Zoo for realizing that they could not care for their elephants properly, it was sad to see the choice that was made and the repercussions the followed. I travel all over the world to view and photograph wildlife in their natural habitat, and it just strengthens my belief that Bamboo must be sent to a sanctuary.”

The petition claims that zoo records show that Bamboo has been attacked by the other elephants and has dropped over 1,000 pounds since moving locations.

However, the Oklahoma City Zoo says that the attacks occurred while the elephants were still getting to know each other and determine a ‘social hierarchy.’

“The petition misrepresents what the typical social dynamics are within elephant herds, especially when new herd members are getting to know each other and determine their place in the family. Elephants live in herds where there is an established social hierarchy. When new members integrate into a herd there is a natural process of determining family order and dominance. Anticipated dominance displays and interactions occurred during Bamboo’s introduction to the herd more than six months ago, and no reoccurrence has taken place since,” a statement from the zoo read.

“The herd dynamic is not unlike a birth in a family, or the welcoming of a new pet. Everyone needs to get to know each other, and each unique personality. This process is normal and was carefully observed by the Zoo’s animal care team to ensure all the elephants were integrating well,” said Dwight Lawson, executive director/CEO of the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Since then, zoo officials say Bamboo has become close with two of the younger elephants, adding that separating them would not be in her best interest.

“Bamboo has found her home, and the Zoo will continue providing her the best environment to thrive,” said Lawson.

However, the petition alleges that Bamboo was attacked in April, which left a six-inch scrape on her trunk.