A petition that asks the Oklahoma City Zoo to send one of its older female elephants to a sanctuary now has more than 165,000 signatures, and the number continues to grow.
I wrote about the elephant Bamboo here on Aug. 22. The 49-year-old Bamboo, obtained along with the now deceased elephant Chai from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle last year, has apparently had problems integrating into what zoo officials call a “herd.”
Bamboo has apparently been bitten on the tail and suffered a gash on her trunk when she was attacked by another elephant. She has also apparently attacked another elephant and has been isolated at times from other elephants.
The zoo has called the process of Bamboo’s integration with the other elephants “normal,” a claim strongly rejected by many animal welfare advocates and many of those people who have circulated and signed the petition. The zoo recently tried to put up obstacles to make it more difficult for media outlets and animal welfare advocates to retrieve records about the health conditions of its animals but has apparently relented on this issue.
The issue of how the zoo deals with open records requests, however, is a developing story. The zoo has at least one open records request pending—I placed it—and it remains to be seen how it will process it.
Zoo officials have also failed to respond to some of my larger questions and concerns about the conditions of the elephants. For example, can you actually consider an elephant exhibit at any zoo to replicate in reality the natural “herd” configuration of the animals? They are, after all, being held in captivity in small enclosures, which obviously brings with it a set of challenges and problems. At the very least, does the basic unnaturalness of zoo enclosures demand new language and definitions when we discuss issues such as “herd” dynamics or mating and breeding?
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