Seattle City Council Refuses to Hear Appeal for Watoto

Elephants.waiting to see mayorUpdate July 15, 2015: Members of the public that support retiring the Woodland Park Zoo elephants to a sanctuary filled Seattle’s City Council hearing room yesterday.

The supporters of the elephants were there to voice concern, in particular, for Watoto, the elephant the zoo intends to move to another zoo by the end of the year. A zoo official on hand was adamant that Watoto would not be allowed to go to a sanctuary and instead would be sent to another zoo. The city council refused to allow anyone to speak on behalf of the elephants even during the public comment period, claiming that the matter was “not on the agenda”.

Supporters of the elephants then went to the mayor’s office, but he was not available.

Please help by contacting city council members at the addresses below and urge them to support retiring all elephants to a sanctuary and closing the elephant exhibit at the zoo. Please be polite. You can find more information at

Original report: You may have heard about the growing debate involving the three elephants held at the Woodland Park Zoo. For decades, Watoto, Chai, and Bamboo have languished in a cramped, barren, antiquated exhibit that harms their physical and psychological health.

Facing increased criticism over its elephant program, the Zoo recently announced a plan to send Watoto (the Zoo’s sole African elephant) to another zoo and bring in two additional elephants; one of breeding age.

Time is of the essence. The Woodland Park Zoo intends to rid itself of Watoto by the end of the year.

Elephants on Kasenyl Plains by Tobias Seiderer
Elephants on Kasenyl Plains
From the Community Coalition for Elephant Retirement and Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants: we won’t give up on Chai and Bamboo, Watoto needs your support now to ensure that her future is secure at a sanctuary, not another zoo where she will be forced to endure more of the same. The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), an elephant sanctuary in California, is available to talk if and when the zoo considers retiring the elephants. To date, the Zoo has not responded.

TWO things you can do to help Watoto:

1) Write to the Seattle City Council and Mayor Ed Murray today (email addresses below). Please keep your comments brief and polite, mention whether you are a Seattle and/or King County resident , and include the following suggested points:
• Urge the Council and Mayor to champion community values and retire Watoto to a sanctuary.
• Let the Council and Mayor know that as a concerned Seattle or King County resident, you care about Watoto’s future. The Zoo receives millions in taxpayer money every year, making the welfare of Watoto all of our responsibility, not just the Zoo’s.
• Let the Council and Mayor know that you agree with the super majority of Seattle residents who support retiring Watoto to a sanctuary.
• Twenty-seven zoos have closed or will close their elephant exhibits; it is time that the Woodland Park Zoo follows this progressive lead. After 45 years of service at the Zoo, Watoto deserves a secure future at a sanctuary, not more of the same at another zoo.


2) Attend an upcoming City Council meeting on July 14th to show your support for Watoto. Children are strongly encouraged to attend. Free T-shirts will be provided at the 4th and Cherry entrance to City Hall starting at 1:30 pm. We will head up to the City Hall chambers on the second floor at 1:45 pm.
What: Seattle City Council meeting
When: Monday, July 14th, 1:30 pm
Where: 600 4th Ave, Second Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104

Please contact Alyne Fortgang of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants if you have questions: Please also confirm with Alyne that you plan to attend the City Council meeting.
For more information on Watoto, Chai, and Bamboo, please visit:
Thank you for your help and support!

Photo by Tobias Seiderer