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Task force proposes changes to Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant program

A task force commissioned by Woodland Park Zoo is recommending a number of changes to its elephant program. The task force released its comprehensive final report Tuesday night, providing the zoo’s board of directors with two options.

The majority of the task force recommended “A focus on growing a multi-generational elephant herd by making improvements to the existing program and exhibit including an active breeding program.”

A minority of the task force called for “improving the existing elephant exhibit, and allowing the current elephants to retire or die at the Zoo. Chai, Bamboo and Watoto would serve as representatives of their species to help inform visitors about the predicament of elephants in the wild.”

Task Force co-chair Jay Manning explained in a press release, “We found the zoo’s elephant program at a crossroads. One path leads to the long-term presence of elephants at the WPZ, the other to a future without them.”


Woodland Park Zoo elephant Chai. Photo by Ryan Hawk.

Among the key Recommendations:

  • Significant improvements are needed to improve the social well-being and behavior health of the three elephants, including enlarging the facility, reducing choke points in the barn; expanding and increasing the enrichment program.

  • The zoo should consider using natural breeding if Chai is to be bred instead of artificial insemination to increase the success of having a life birth.

  • The zoo should explore new cutting edge educational models to educate the public with or without elephants and strengthen its conservation programs.

  • Work with the AZA and other organizations to more effectively connect WPZ’s elephant program to national efforts to protect elephants in the wild.

The zoo’s board of directors and staff will review the report and decide on next steps to be implemented in 2014.