A task force will meet Thursday to review the health and living conditions of three elephants at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. The panel was created after a citizen petition last year called for an investigation into the living conditions and treatment of elephants.
If you ask visitors to the Woodland Park Zoo about the elephant exhibit, you get a sense that elephants have a special place in their hearts. Mason Sherry and his family are members of the zoo. He figures they come to see the elephants five times a year. But like many visitors here, Sherry feels conflicted.
“Kids definitely love the elephants,” he says. “I always do have some sort of ethical concerns, if they have enough space, if the enclosures are up to standard for whatever elephants should have.”
The zoo’s three resident elephants, Chai, Bamboo, and Watoto will be the focus of the task force. Panel members will evaluate their care and well-being. They will review how the elephant exhibit fits within the zoo’s mission of conservation and education.
Critics would like to see the elephants moved to a sanctuary where they will have more space to roam.
But not everyone can imagine the zoo without elephants.
Heather Wong is from Redmond. She came with her two toddlers. She says, as a parent, she would like the elephants to stay in the zoo. If the elephants go, her family would be disappointed. “It’s a hard animal to visit if it’s not in a zoo, but I understand their concerns.”
The task force will meet over the coming months, and is expected to issue its findings by the end of summer.