OKC Zoo Elephant Bamboo Endures Attacks, Isolation

Image of the OKC Zoo elephant Bamboo

(Transfer the Oklahoma City Zoo elephant Bamboo, pictured above, to a sanctuary right away and let’s begin a discussion about how and when we’re going to close the elephant exhibit at the zoo.—Kurt Hochenauer)

Bamboo, the sole surviving elephant obtained by the Oklahoma City Zoo from a Seattle zoo, has suffered attacks from at least one or more elephants in her exhibit and is apparently kept frequently in isolation, according to zoo records.

The zoo documents were obtained through open-records requests by the Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants organization in Seattle. I personally retrieved the most recent set of documents at the Oklahoma City Zoo offices for the Seattle organization on Aug. 17.

Those records, along with previously obtained records, show 49-year-old Bamboo has had her tail bitten and, in one case, suffered “bleeding from its tail amputation site.” Later her trunk was gashed after another elephant charged her. Another elephant, 37-year-old Chai, also obtained by the Oklahoma City Zoo from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in 2015, died in January. Yet another elephant at the zoo, 4-year-old Malee, died last October.

The elephant deaths and Bamboo’s precarious living situation should obviously raise questions about the level of care given to elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo and just the difficulty of keeping large captive animals healthy under a real quality-of-life paradigm. Is it even reasonable to assume elephants can thrive in Oklahoma’s geographical and environmental conditions or in any zoo at all?

The Oklahoma City Zoo obtained the Seattle-based elephants in 2015 when Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, like some other zoos, decided to end their elephant exhibit because of overall concerns about keeping the large animals in captivity.

As Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of the Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, points out: “Zoos ignore scientific knowledge when it comes to an elephant's physical and psychological welfare. Elephants die young and suffer every single day in zoo confinement. It's time for the Oklahoma City Zoo to retire the elephants to a sanctuary - anything less diminishes our humanity."

From the obtained documents:

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A Lingering Cloud of Doom

The huge methane cloud hovering over the country’s Four Corners region, according to NASA, has been tied to national gas operations in that region.

At least it isn’t in Oklahoma, right? Well, oil and gas operators here are also grappling with new federal initiatives dealing with methane emissions, which is a greenhouse gas even more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

The Four Corners region is where the states Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. A NASA-led study, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed a cloud of methane the size of the state of Delaware hovering over the region. The cloud mainly consists of methane from oil and gas emissions and leaks.

One report on the development stated:

Methane is a key component of natural gas. The hot spot is not a local safety or health issue, but methane does contribute to global warming. Methane is 86 times more potent for trapping heat in the short-term than carbon dioxide.

The point here is obvious: Oil and gas operations and storage are a dirty business that need more, not less, regulation in terms of protecting the environment. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is endangering the entire planet because of the acceleration of global warming.


Grim Funding News For Colleges, Universities

The funding news for our country’s public universities and colleges is grim, and that certainly includes here in Oklahoma.

What happens to a culture that stops investing in critical inquiry, knowledge and learning? We all know the new pragmatics that state funding cuts to higher education mean students pay more in tuition and fees and some get priced out of the equation or take on huge student loan debt. But what about the bizarre act itself of de-funding our great centers of learning throughout the nation? Isn’t it a type of intellectual suicide?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in an updated report notes that most states have cut support for colleges and universities from 2008-2016 or since the so-called Great Recession. This has driven up tuition, but that hasn’t kept pace with the state funding cuts so many colleges have reduced student services, classes and faculty positions. According to the report:

As states have slashed higher education funding, the price of attending public colleges has risen significantly faster than the growth in median income. For the average student, increases in federal student aid and the availability of tax credits have not kept up, jeopardizing the ability of many to afford the college education that is key to their long-term financial success.

Oklahoma, according to the report, reduced support for higher education by 21.7 percent from 2008-2016, making it one of 28 states that reduced funding by 20 percent or more during that time period. It’s unclear if that includes the nearly 16 percent cut to colleges and universities handed down by the legislature in its budget this past session. The 21.7 percent cut is adjusted for inflation.

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