Elephants en route from Seattle to Oklahoma City make San Diego detour

Elephants en route from Seattle to Oklahoma City make San Diego detour
Chai, 35, and Bamboo, 48, were en route from Seattle to Oklahoma when a storm disrupted the trip. The two Asian elephants are now at the San Diego Zoo. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Two aging Asian elephants arrived Friday at the San Diego Zoo after plans to transport them from Seattle to Oklahoma City were disrupted by stormy weather and concerns about the animals' well-being.

Bamboo, 48, and Chai, 36, were in climate-controlled crates on a flatbed truck traveling from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle to the Oklahoma City Zoo.


When a storm was predicted for Wyoming and Colorado, animal keepers traveling with the pair contacted the San Diego Zoo to see if the facility could accommodate the elephants until the storm passed.

With the storm approaching, keepers traveling with the elephants changed the route as the truck neared Salt Lake City, Woodland Park Zoo officials said.

The animals are in the Conrad Prebys Elephant Care Center at the San Diego Zoo, where they will remain until the trip resumes. The center specializes in caring for ailing and geriatric elephants.

Martin Ramirez, a mammal curator from the Woodland Park Zoo, said the animals were "tired and showed signs of muscle stress" when they arrived in San Diego.

"They both need time to walk around, stretch their legs and adjust to their new surroundings," he said. It is unknown when the trip will resume, he said.

Traveling with the elephants are three elephant experts, two veterinarians and three other zoo staffers.

Bamboo and Chai were the last two elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, and plans to transfer them to Oklahoma City brought protests and demands that instead they be sent to an elephant sanctuary in Northern California. Among those protesting was television personality Bob Barker.

The elephants and the flatbed truck left Seattle on Wednesday night, just hours after a federal court rejected a request from the Elephant Justice Project to halt the transfer.

The Woodland Park Zoo's chief executive, Deborah Jensen, said that the Oklahoma City Zoo offers a "state-of-the-art elephant exhibit," with good veterinary care and other elephants for socializing.

But Elephant Justice Project activists were bitterly disappointed that the two will go to another zoo, not a sanctuary.

"It's been a tragedy that they've spent their whole lives in a zoo since they were babies," activist Alyne Fortgang told the Seattle Times, "and it's a tragedy that they're going to die in a zoo without one single day off display, being an elephant."