Elephants arrive at Oklahoma zoo after weather, legal delays

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two Asian elephants from Seattle finally have arrived in Oklahoma City after political opposition, legal challenges and stormy weather.

Chai and Bamboo arrived safely around 3 a.m. Wednesday at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden. The animals will undergo multiple checkups and will be quarantined for 30 days before joining the other five elephants at the zoo.

“Both Bamboo and Chai looked great this morning,” said Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, the zoo’s director of veterinary services. The female elephants ate snacks including watermelon, cantaloupe, raisins and hay; enjoyed sand baths; and explored their surroundings, she said.

Their trip began in April after a federal appeals court declined to block the transfer. The move was opposed by animal rights activists and at least one member of the Seattle City Council who wanted the elephants to be sent to a sanctuary, not another zoo.

A snowstorm in the Rockies last month also sidetracked the pachyderms’ trip to the Midwest. The storm forced their caravan to change plans and stop at the San Diego Zoo, where they rested for a few weeks.

Martin Ramirez, a mammal curator from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, was among the staff who accompanied the elephants on their estimated 30-hour journey from California to Oklahoma.

Ramirez said 48-year-old Bamboo and 36-year-old Chai remained “bright” and “alert” throughout the trek, interacting positively with staff and eating hay, pellets and fruit treats.

Woodland Park Zoo picked the Oklahoma City zoo for Bamboo and Chai’s next stay after deciding to close its elephant exhibit. The Seattle zoo, which has had elephants in its care since 1921, started discussing the future of its herd after a third pachyderm died in 2014.

“Oklahoma City Zoo is the best choice and meets our requirements to provide the best social welfare in a healthy environment for Bamboo and Chai,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo president and CEO. “They will have an opportunity to live and socialize with more elephants and they will continue to receive the same kind of exemplary care they received during their lifetime at Woodland Park Zoo.”

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