Back in April, the Oklahoma City Zoo acquired two elephants (Chai and Bamboo) from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. The move was controversial and heavily criticized by hippies, animal rights activists, and living fossils like the Price is Right's Bob Barker.
Here's what he said:
“When I heard about the plans to send Chai and Bamboo to the Oklahoma Zoo, I felt compelled to call the mayor personally and ask him to intervene on their behalf,” explained Bob Barker in a statement. “Moving elephants in the winter is very dangerous, an elephant named Wankie died under the same conditions in 2005.
Additionally, Oklahoma Zoo is located in a climate that is too cold in the winter for elephants and in the heart of tornado alley, and they also have loud rock concerts at an amphitheatre located right near the elephants. Sending them there would move them from a bad situation to a dreadful one. The entire plan is irresponsible and cruel.”
Well, I guess Bob Barker was right... kind of.
Although tornados, cold weather and loud rock concerts had nothing to do with it, Chai the elephant was found dead at the Oklahoma City Zoo on Saturday morning. She was 37-years old. Her death comes only four months after 3-year-old Malee, the first elephant born at the zoo, died from herpes.
An elephant that was found dead in its habitat Saturday morning didn't exhibit any outward signs of failing health, a zoo spokeswoman said.
Chai, a 37-year-old Asian elephant, died sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning. Her death was discovered by staff at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
“She looked fine all day Friday, going through her normal training and interacting with the rest of the herd as she always had,” spokeswoman Tara Henson said. “Our staff had no indication that there was something wrong with her.”
The zoo canceled its elephant presentation Saturday out of respect for the elephant team, Henson said.
First of all, I guess I should apologize to Chai, animal rights activists, PETA, and Bob Barker for not taking their concerns all that seriously. I thought they were just bitter that Oklahoma City was stealing another one of Seattle's treasures. I didn't know their concerns were legitimate, and that our zoo was going to turn into the damn Elephant's Graveyard from The Lion King. My bad.
Anyway, Doc Hoc wrote a little essay back in February 2015 asking everyone to "Think About the Zoo." It's a good read. I'd suggest you check it out.
For what it's worth, I see both sides of the zoo argument. On one hand, zoos have done a lot to help educate us about the animal kingdom. They bring awareness to conservation efforts and give families something to do on boring Saturday afternoons. That being said, zoos are kind of weird and creepy. I always feel guilty seeing the animals caged in exhibits and away from their natural habitat. Sure, some of the animals may benefit from being away from predators, poachers, oil spills, cars, floods, forest fires, etc., but they don't know that. How would you like it if some aliens captured you and five other total strangers from the intersection at 63rd and N. May and put you in a massive glass enclosure complete with a waterfall, McDonald's, small beach, replica living room with five recliners, a 70-inch flat screen and a fully stocked bar, and then expected you all to live together nicely and mate while other aliens watched?
Actually, that would be a cool and amazing experience, especially if the aliens had Mold-A-Rama machines that made little replica humans, but you'd probably get tired of it after a while and want to go back to your real home, and be around other people. Maybe it's time we start treating animals they way we prefer to be treated.