SEATTLE – Two Asian elephants are officially on their way to Oklahoma despite protests from Seattle residents.
Bamboo, 48, and Chai, 36, were the last remaining elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, according to a press release.
Woodland Park Zoo officials say they spent months evaluating where the Asian elephants should go.
“Oklahoma City Zoo is the best choice and meets our requirements to provide the best social welfare in a healthy environment for Bamboo and Chai,” said Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen. “They will have an opportunity to live and socialize with more elephants and they will continue to receive the same kind of exemplary care they received during their lifetime at Woodland Park Zoo.”
The elephants embarked on their 2,000 mile journey to Oklahoma City April 15. The trip is expected to take 35 to 40 hours.
Eight staff members are accompanying the truck carrying the elephants so they can check on the animals’ well-being throughout the trip.
According to Dr. Nancy Hawkes, Woodland Park Zoo’s general curator, elephants in the wild live in multi-generational herds.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity for Bamboo and Chai to join a growing family at their new home where they’ll have the chance to be companions and even aunts to younger elephants. This is a very natural social grouping for elephants,” said Hawkes.
Oklahoma City Zoo officials believe the transfer will be good for the herd.
“Adding Bamboo and Chai will help round out our family. Their maturity plus experience with a baby will be valuable in broadening the social dynamics of our herd. We look forward to having these new members join our family,” said Dwight Lawson, Oklahoma City Zoo Executive Director/CEO.
Bamboo and Chai will be joining the Oklahoma City Zoo’s family of Asian elephants, which include four females and a male, ranging in ages from 2 months old to 47 years old: female Asha, 20; female Chandra, 18, sister of Asha; female Malee, 4, the daughter of Asha; female Achara, born December 2014, the daughter of Asha and Rex; and sole male Rex, 47, the father of Achara.
Officials say Oklahoma City Zoo has expertise in integrating herds and will follow a methodical plan that socializes Bamboo and Chai with the herd in incremental steps.
“During the introduction process, elephants work out a social hierarchy. This process can be immediate or it can take months. We will follow the cues of the animals,” said Laura Bottaro, an animal curator at Oklahoma City Zoo.
A group of Seattle residents and TV icon Bob Barker protested the move, because they believed the elephants belonged at a sanctuary.
“Very sad, this means we lost,” said Nancy Pennington of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants. “We worked so hard and done so many things to try to get these elephants to a better life and we failed.”
Woodland Park Zoo officials believe relocating the elephants to the Oklahoma City Zoo is the right decision.
“Like you, we will miss them dearly. But we know they have a bright future ahead of them in their new home where they will receive excellent care and live in the healthy, social environment they need to thrive,” the Woodland Park Zoo said on Facebook.