Update Thursday: Woodland Park Zoo posted an FAQ on its website with answers to questions about the move, including why it happened without advanced notice, and what keepers packed for the elephants on their 40-hour journey.
Update 6:25 p.m.: We just saw the flatbed truck with the elephants in climate-controlled crates leave Woodland Park Zoo, heading north on Phinney Avenue with an escort of police cars.
Earlier: The Woodland Park Zoo elephants are being prepared for their move to Oklahoma City, according to KING 5 news, which has a story being updated here.
You can also see live video of the preparations.
That’s the reason for the news helicopters hovering over the neighborhood. The noise from them is causing some consternation, say commenters on the PhinneyWood Facebook page.
Update 5:30 p.m.: Plenty of camera crews and reporters are stationed at the zoo’s South Entrance, waiting for the trucks carrying Chai and Bamboo to begin their journey to Oklahoma.
Today the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal for a federal preliminary injunction by the Elephant Justice Project (which is affiliated with Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants), which has been trying to have the elephants sent to a sanctuary rather than another zoo. Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants has spent years highlighting what it says are unbearable conditions for zoo elephants. The group even hosted a press conference with actress/comedienne (and animal rights activist) Lily Tomlin in 2009.
The zoo had resisted calls to shut down its elephant exhibit for years, and in 2013 a task force had even recommended it expand its elephant program, but in November 2014 the zoo decided to close down its elephant program. In February the zoo announced it would send its remaining two elephants to Oklahoma City. The Seattle Times published a story on April 10 with details about the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Here’s today’s official statement from the zoo’s president and CEO, Dr. Deborah Jensen, posted on the zoo’s website.
SEATTLE – United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit today denied an emergency motion for injunctive relief. Following is a statement released by Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen:
“We are grateful to the federal Ninth Circuit for denying the emergency motion for a preliminary injunction that would have delayed the move of our two elephants to Oklahoma City Zoo.
“Today’s decision clears the way for us to proceed with moving our elephants, Bamboo and Chai, to join their new family at Oklahoma City Zoo. Focusing on the welfare of our elephants remains our top priority and it is important for us to move them now while the weather conditions are favorable.
“For the safety and security of Bamboo and Chai, we are unable to announce the exact timing of departure but will inform our zoo family and community once they have safely left the grounds of Woodland Park Zoo.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, I want to thank the community for your continued support during this complicated time. We will keep everyone updated when the elephants are on the road.”