Posted in Elephants in captivity, field trip to the zoo, Woodland Park; Zoo Bamboo and Chai

Letter Opting Out of the Zoo Fieldtrip

paws elephant sanctuary

Paws Elephant Sanctuary


Oklahoma City Zoo Barn

Dear Teacher,

I am writing to inform you that following long discussion and a lot of research, we, as a family have decided that our daughter will not be attending the school field trip to the zoo on April X, 2015.
This family decision was made carefully, as we weighed all of the pros and cons. We were able to generate pros of course. Pete and I were thinking of the educational value. Amara was clear that her primary goal was social; being able to be with her friends outside of school is a big draw. Of course, who doesn’t love going on a field trip with friends!

However, we had already decided as a family, to boycott the zoo beginning in August 2014. This decision has taken us on a wonderful learning journey for all of us. A journey of right and wrong, standing up for what we believe in, ethics, and using our own social political power to enact change in small ways.

To provide a short background, we have been long standing supporters of the Woodland Park Zoo. We have been faithful zoo members since our daughter was born in 2007. We have supported the zoo through various events, including annual membership, birthday parties, summer zoo camps, and the Zoo Tunes concert series. When calculated, we have spent a substantial amount of money there, in hopes that the money would support the welfare of the resident animals, and frankly, for our own education and enjoyment.

However, following the death of Watoto, the African elephant in August of 2014, increasing concern regarding the health and welfare of our current resident elephants, Bamboo and Chai, grew. Along with many Seattle residents, we have written numerous letters in support of a sanctuary, made several phone calls, attended rallies and fundraising events, and made every attempt to communicate our concerns with the City of Seattle as well as the administration and financial supporters, and at Woodland Park Zoo, including Chief Executive Deborah Jensen. Through these communications, we have received unsatisfactory, generic canned responses, and in many cases, false information. It became increasingly clear that money, not animal welfare, is Woodland Park Zoo’s first and foremost deciding factor. As a family, we cannot ethically support an organization where greed is the driving force, especially when it is an organization whose number one job is the care of animals.

Through our research, it is clear that a sanctuary is the most humane environment for Bamboo and Chai to live the rest of their days. Two very appropriate sanctuaries offered to pay for the transportation and care costs for both animals, leaving no financial burden to the Woodland Park Zoo. Previous concern regarding the safety and health of Bamboo and Chai, have since been dispelled. In a sanctuary environment, they are allowed to roam several acres and interact with nature as elephants, a migratory animal by nature, should.

Two years later, Woodland Park Zoo released an announcement regarding the decided fate of Bamboo and Chai. We, among others, stood in amazement that not one of the recommendations from the 2013 elephant task force would be met at their new proposed location, Oklahoma City Zoo. The experts agree, Oklahoma City Zoo, is not able to meet the specified needs of these animals. Specifically, the space per elephant is even smaller than the Woodland Park Zoo when taking into consideration of the elephant per square foot ratio. In addition, one clear recommendation was that the elephants live in a more temperate climate than Seattle. Oklahoma City has some of the most extreme climates in the United States, forcing the elephants to spent long, cold winters contained in the barn. These specific examples, as well as MANY other concerns, are why it is clear this decision was not made based on the recommendations presented for the welfare of the animals.

Since our voices are not being heard by Woodland Park Zoo, we are left to communicate by withdraw of the financial support that we had previously provided to the zoo. As a family, we feel it is best to communicate our views and concerns regarding the lack of ethics and concern for the animal welfare of its residents. Though this was a decision made on principal, it was extremely difficult. But we agreed that we must continue to speak loudly about our concerns, while we continue to withhold any and all support for the Woodland Park Zoo.

Our views and opinions regarding animal welfare and the Woodland Park Zoo, have no reflection on our views and opinions regarding our teacher’s fabulous second grade class, the study of the African Savannah, or the Seattle Public School District. These are all exemplary.

In order to fulfill the gap in learning that may occur during this field trip, we will be researching Elephant conservation, Tanzania, Kenya, and the local tribes within our community on the day that the Zoo field trip occurs.

Thank you for your understanding and support.


Shana Kelly


Principal X at

Deborah Jensen
Sally Bagshaw
Sally Clark
Dow Constantine
Kshama Sawant
Tim Burgess
Jean Godden
Mike Obrien
Nick Licata
Tom Rasmussen


Editorial (2015, January 29). Give Woodland Park Zoo elephants Bamboo and Chai much-needed retirement. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from:

Editorial board members (2015, March 2). Woodland Park Zoo elephants to Oklahoma City? Not so fast. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from:

Thompson, L. (2014, November 20). Woodland Park Zoo closing elephant exhibit. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from:

Borrell, B. (2008, December 11). How Zoos Kill Elephants. Scientific American. Retrieved from:

Stewart, E. (2013, May 3). No Ethical Way to Keep Elephants in Captivity. National Geographic. Retrieved from:

Website Resources

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants also have the up-to-date information regarding Bamboo and Chai, the current lawsuit, and resources. Please visit: http: and // http: //