According to our news partners at The Seattle times, dozens of locals protested outside the Woodland Park Zoo’s board meeting on Tuesday about the future home of elephants Chai and Bamboo.
Protestors were in attendance to register their opposition to the elephants being sent to another accredited zoo as opposed to an elephant sanctuary.
The protestors reportedly chanted “Free Chai, free Bamboo. Just another zoo won’t do. Make them safe, make them merry. Send them to a sanctuary” as the board met inside the zoo’s education center.
According to The Seattle Times, only 14 of the protestors were allowed inside the meeting to speak during the 10 minute public comment period. The zoo would also not let news media enter the meeting.
“We’re a private organization. This is a private meeting,” Bruce Bohmke, the zoo’s chief operating officer, told The Seattle Times. “By our contract with the city, we’re required to have a public comment period, and once that’s finished we go on with our meeting. It’s not officially a public meeting. We don’t let media in because we can’t accommodate that in the room,” says Bohmke.
Although Woodland Park Zoo posts information and the agendas of their Board Meetings on their website, there is no indication that the public are not allowed inside the meeting beyond the public comment period.
According to The Seattle Times report, Woodland Park Zoo is a private nonprofit, however, about $7 million of its annual budget comes from the City of Seattle.
According to wording in the Zoo Management Agreement between Woodland Park Zoo and the City of Seattle “the Zoo will remain under City ownership and the Zoo Society will manage it under contract. The City will continue to provide annual public funding.”
According to the Seattle Times report, a group of approximately 50 activists rushed the doors of the education center (pictured above) while the meeting was going on inside. They also “stared down” a security guard who was forced to bar the doors.
“I think this was handled really poorly by the zoo,” Susan Hoppler, 52, a member of Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants told The Seattle Times. “It was very publicly known that we were going to be here. I think they should have been more prepared to allow us to be able to attend the meeting.”
This board meeting was the first since the Zoo announced the move of Chai, 35, and Bamboo, 47, to a larger, social herd at another accredited zoo. According to Bohmke, Woodland Park Zoo have not yet decided which zoo the elephants will call their new home.
Bohmke told The Seattle Times that the elephants were not being sent to a sanctuary as the two sanctuaries that might take the elephants “both have ongoing health issues as far as the zoo is aware.”
Alyne Fortgang, a founder of the Friends group, was one of the protestors who made it into the meeting. Fortgang told The Seattle Times that 14 activists were allowed to speak for one minute each. “We want to be heard. It’s time to give (the elephants) their lives back and let them live as free as they possibly can in a sanctuary,” says Fortgang.
Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times.