At a press conference earlier today, representatives from Woodland Park Zoo announced that the zoo’s on-site elephant program will be closed and that the two aging elephants will be moved to another accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) facility.
“We remain committed to putting the welfare of our elephants first. After several months of working to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force, we have found that adding to the herd of our two aging elephants is not realistic in the foreseeable future. It is in the best interest of Asian elephants Bamboo and Chai to live in a social, multi-animal herd in a healthy environment,” said Woodland Park Zoo’s President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen.
Jensen confirmed that 47-year-old Bamboo and 35-year-old Chai will be relocated to another AZA facility that “is held to exemplary standards of care.”
“Having only one or two elephants at the zoo for the long term would work against the broader social welfare of Chai and Bamboo and we are committed to following the recommendations of elephant health and welfare experts,” Dr. Jensen continues.
The Elephant Task Force, comprised of local community representatives and internationally-distinguished scientists and animal care professionals, conducted a external review of the zoo’s elephant program last year. It was based on these findings that the zoo decided to close the on-site elephant program.
Woodland Park Zoo is now on the lookout for a new forever home for the elephants and they are expected to make the move in 2015. “They will be a part of our family for the rest of their lives and we will continue to follow their welfare at their new home,” added Jensen.
“It is a difficult decision to move these animals who have long played an important role as ambassadors for their species in the wild, but we could not have made it without the thoughtful and exhaustive work of the Elephant Task Force, the zoo’s Board of Directors and our staff. We will continue working with our elephant conservation partners in Borneo and Tanzania and the 96 Elephants campaign to help end the ivory trade,” said Jensen.
“Every year, the zoo reviews its animal programs, which include physical and behavioral health and care, and makes decisions to continue, phase out or introduce new animals based on an extensive set of criteria,” explains Woodland Park Zoo’s Chief Operations Officer Bruce Bohmke.
In 2012, based on advice received through similar review taskforce teams, the zoo phased out its African wild dog and Malayan sun bear exhibits.
Click here to find out more about Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant program as it prepares to close.
Photo courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo. Photo credit – Ryan Hawk.