Petition Grows To Free OKC Zoo Elephant Bamboo

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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Oklahoma Economic Woes Continue

The Republican-induced financial morass continues in Oklahoma, and the overall economic outlook for the immediate future here remains bleak.

That may seem unduly negative or harsh, but it’s the reality. Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller announced this week that tax receipts for August were down 4 percent from last year, making it the eighteenth straight month of “downward trajectory.” To make matters worse, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is now at 5 percent, or, as Miller put it his monthly news releases of doom and gloom, “Oklahoma’s jobless numbers exceed the national rate for the first time in almost 26 years.”

Let’s be clear that the recent GOP-sponsored income tax cuts and tax breaks in recent years for the energy industry are a major contributor to the state’s dwindling revenues. Obviously, the world’s oil glut has contributed to a decline in gross production taxes here, but the reality is the Republicans have created this mess here with a failed ideology.

That failed ideology goes something like this: Let’s cut taxes a little bit for everyone and then give rich people and big corporations huge tax breaks, and then our economy will boom like never before! The real question, of course, is whether many of the Republicans pushing this ideology really believe in it or if they just don’t care about public education and want to reward the richest among us.

Did you just feel an earthquake? I did. It has been brought to you by the Oklahoma Republican Party and the oil and gas industry, which are synonymous, and your kids are paying for that earthquake with larger class sizes and outdated textbooks and equipment.

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Earthquakes? What Earthquakes?

An editorial published yesterday in The Oklahoman lauding the oil and gas industry failed to mention the state’s major earthquake crisis and even credited the industry with waging a fight against global warming, which the newspaper hasn’t even really supported as a concept through the years.

The editorial, "Oklahoma energy industry remains an economic cornerstone,” is pure spin. It’s a lie in so many different ways. It’s as if it was written by industry officials themselves, which it was in a way, because it mainly cites a report by the American Petroleum Institute, hardly a neutral source.

That the energy sector is important to Oklahoma is obvious. So that’s not a lie. What’s not so obvious in the rosy assessment by The Oklahoman of that well accepted fact is that the state’s financial welfare is overly tied to the sector and that the state has failed to really diversify its economy. It’s a major problem here, and it has been for decades.

All these earthquakes here—from the 5.8-magnitude Saturday, largest in Oklahoma recorded history, to the smaller ones that strike on a daily basis—have brought the failure of economic diversification to a crisis, a point the editorial doesn’t make.

What happens when the actions of a state’s “cornerstone” industry cause massive property damage resulting in lawsuits and most likely even more lawsuits in the future? These are lawsuits that could stop hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, here altogether.

Here’s a counter argument or at least a different frame on the issue: A report by the American Petroleum Institute shows, again, how the state needs to find different ways beyond oil and gas to save the economy and to keep Oklahoma viable.

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