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Elephant Transport from Seattle with San Diego Side Trip was Costly

05 Jun 2015 2:10 PM | Deleted user

Woodland Park Zoo says no taxpayer funds will be used to cover the cost of moving Chai and Bamboo from Seattle to San Diego to Oklahoma City.

Chai and Bamboo’s trip to San Diego proved a costly detour for Woodland Park Zoo.

The price tag for transporting the two elephants from California to their new home at the Oklahoma City Zoo was $88,000, according to a contract released to The Seattle Times.

That’s in addition to the $106,000 tab for the first attempt to move the animals, which was diverted because of bad weather.

The cost of the first move was split evenly between the Seattle and Oklahoma zoos. But it’s not clear yet whether the Oklahoma City Zoo, which is currently working on its budget, will pay a share of the cost for the second move. 

If not, Woodland Park’s total expenditure will be $141,000.

The Seattle zoo gets about a third of its annual budget from the city of Seattle and King County, but no taxpayer funds will be used to cover the cost of the move, said zoo spokeswoman Gigi Allianic.

Instead, the money will come out of a reserve endowment seeded by unrestricted, private donations.

The two female elephants left Seattle on the evening of April 15. But their convoy was diverted to San Diego after it encountered a snowstorm near Salt Lake City and 48-year-old Bamboo appeared to be tiring.  

The animals offloaded at the San Diego Zoo on April 17, and stayed there until the evening of May 11. They arrived in Oklahoma City early May 13.

The move was hotly debated in Seattle, where many residents argued that the most humane option would have been to retire the animals to an elephant sanctuary in California. But Woodland Park Zoo insisted they will be better off at the Oklahoma zoo, where they can socialize with a herd that includes two young adult females and two female calves.

The Oklahoma zoo officials said Thursday that Chai and Bamboo are adjusting well, and appear comfortable in their new home.

“Both of them are healthy, and they have really settled into their normal, daily routine,” said veterinarian Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino.

The animals will remain in quarantine for about 30 days. That means they are kept in a separate area of the barn and have access to their own small, outdoor yard, but are not allowed in proximity to the other elephants.

But the newcomers and existing herd members can see, sniff and hear each other — and seem to even be chatting back and forth. “There’s a lot of smelling going on,” D’Agostino said. Bamboo has been vocalizing a lot, as has Malee, Oklahoma’s 3-year-old calf. “She was really excited,” D’Agostino said. “It seemed like she was trying to talk to them.”

Chai and Bamboo appeared startled when they got their first look at Rex, Oklahoma City’s bull elephant. But they now seem used to his presence, D’Agostino said.

Keepers from Woodland Park Zoo will remain in Oklahoma City until the elephants are fully accustomed to taking orders from, and interacting with, their new keepers.

The Seattle transplants have been a big draw for the Oklahoma zoo.

“We’ve had people chomping at the bit to see these elephants,” said marketing director Tara Henson. “The day they got here … the boardwalk was lined up with people, even though it was drizzling.”

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