SEATTLE (AP) Like the Supersonics, Seattle”s two remaining elephants are relocating to Oklahoma City.
The Woodland Park Zoo announced Friday that it will send its two endangered Asian elephants, Bamboo and Chai, to the Oklahoma City Zoo on a long-term loan so they can be part of a larger, multigenerational herd.
“We are delighted to be able to provide Bamboo and Chai a great new home with a family,” Laurie Stewart, chair of the zoo”s board, said in a statement.
Critics of the zoo”s elephant exhibit have argued for years that the exhibit should be closed and the elephants sent to a sanctuary in California, not another zoo.
In November, the zoo announced it would end its elephant program in Seattle and find a new home for 48-year-old Bamboo and 36-year-old Chai.
Last month, the mayor and some council members also asked the zoo to move the elephants to a sanctuary.
Woodland Park Zoo CEO and President Deborah Jensen said Friday that Oklahoma facility is the best choice, because the animals will have more space and can socialize with more animals there. The Seattle zoo is a private nonprofit, but a significant portion of its annual budget comes from the city.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation said in a statement that it”s crucial that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the city council “exercise their very clear legal authority to override the Woodland Park Zoo”s misguided decision” to transfer the elephants to the zoo rather than a sanctuary.
Zoo officials said they considered a number of U.S. zoos with Asian elephants before picking the best one. They noted that the Oklahoma facility had more acres, a large swimming pool and plenty of outdoor and indoor space. It also has an Asian elephant family with four females and one male that range from 2 months old to 47 years.
“Adding Bamboo and Chai will help round out our family,” Dwight Lawson, the Oklahoma City Zoo”s CEO and executive director, said in a statement.
The elephants are on a long-term loan, and no money will be exchanged between the zoos. A loan means that Woodland Park would still be involved in the long-term care of these elephants, Seattle zoo officials said.
The elephants are expected to be moved in late March or early April. They will travel in a climate-controlled crate on the back of a flatbed tractor-trailer for the 2,000-mile journey. Zoo staff will follow them closely, officials said.
Both zoos would share relocation costs of between $50,000 and $100,000.