Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo Saying Goodbye To Its Elephant Exhibits

Ryan Hawk
Woodland Park Zoo
Bamboo is one of two Asian elephants who will be relocated from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, officials said.

Woodland Park Zoo has announced it will phase out its elephant program by moving its two remaining females to a larger herd.

The news comes after the death in August of its only remaining African elephant, Watoto. 

Two Asian elephants remain on display in Seattle: 35-year-old Chai and 47-year-old Bamboo. But now the zoo has decided to relocate them to a larger social group rather than trying to expand the herd on site.

“These are highly social animals. It would be a cruelty, honestly, to hold these animals here, hoping to get another one," said the zoo's chief operations officer Bruce Bohmke.

Keeping at least three elephants is the standard most zoos try to adhere to. And with Bamboo nearing the end of her life expectancy, Bohmke said Woodland Park is concerned Chai could be left alone if they don’t get both integrated into a larger social group soon.

“And so we need to send them somewhere where we can provide that. We’re focused on their welfare," he said.

The zoo and its board have rejected claims that its elephant exhibit needs major improvements, though they have made some small improvements in the past year, such as adding automated feeders.

The search is now on find another accredited facility that will take Chai and Bamboo, who will likely remain in Seattle for another three to six months.

Zoos in Tacoma and Portland are maintaining their elephant displays.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to