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Mourning the loss of Watoto

UPDATE: As we all mourn the loss of Watoto, we ask that in lieu of flowers you help us honor Watoto’s memory by joining the 96 Elephants campaign to save African elephants in the wild from extinction. Take the 96 Elephants pledge at to tell state leaders we want an end to ivory sales in Washington. Share this with your friends. Thank you for helping us honor Watoto.

Most days at Woodland Park Zoo are inspired by wonder and happiness given to us by our beautiful animals. Rarely are there days we write with sad news. Today we are unable to find words to make this easier for any of us.

Watoto, photographed in June 2014. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Earlier today, 45-year-old African elephant Watoto passed away in the care of our veterinary and animal care staff.

Around 7:00 a.m., keepers found Watoto lying in the elephant yard, unable to return to her feet. After multiple attempts to help her stand up, a piece of equipment was brought in to lift her. This attempt also failed.

Woodland Park Zoo’s Animal Health staff was present to assess Watoto’s well-being and provide emergency care. It was determined that her health was quickly declining and that she would likely become more uncomfortable as hours passed. With compassion and sadness, our experts and keepers decided that the most humane course of action was to euthanize her.

Grief for Watoto’s death will be felt far and wide, well beyond zoo grounds, and we will find a way to come together and share our memories as a community.


Anonymous said…
She was my favorite out of all three. She just took my breath away. I have been going to WPZ since I was a little baby and I always had a smile on my face when it came to the elephant exhibit. RIP Watoto. You will be missed.
Anonymous said…
I am so deeply saddened by Watotos' death. She was my favorite of the three, with her kind loving eyes and those beautiful tusks. The elephant yard will not be the same without her. RIP Watoto, you were loved by so many :(
Anonymous said…
Too bad you didn't know how badly she needed to go to a sanctuary so she could live a healthy life for another twenty years

Gigi said…
I saw the following in a Facebook post by ElephantVoices: "In 2011 ElephantVoices wrote a statement regarding the Woodland Park Zoo elephants asking the zoo to send their three elephants to a sanctuary where they would have more space to roam and to socialize. This short video explains everything - please watch it and share.
We think that Woodland Park Zoo made the wrong decision to keep their elephants. What do you think? Ask them to close their elephant exhibit and send their remaining two elephants to a sanctuary.”

Can you start a fundraiser for Woodland Park Zoo to build a real sanctuary where its animals could retire? That would at least be a step in the right direction.
Ophelia Benson said…
I was one of Tote's keepers for a couple of years, 1982-84. It's so sad.
Anonymous said…
Watoto, you were elegant and loved by zoo staff and visitors. Thank you
Anonymous said…
I went to the zoo the very day it happened and wondered where Watoto was. Now I know. RIP Watoto. You where a wonder to behold. Good bye.
Anonymous said…
And what makes a sanctuary better than the loving,devoted care she received from her keepers? Do you even know the difference or quality of care provided at your proposed sanctuary? Just because the word sanctuary is comforting, it does not mean the care or environment are better.
Anonymous said…
If only love and devotion were enough for these animals! I have been to several Sanctuaries. Your argument is defensive and defenseless. It is ego-driven and selfish for you to try to make it ok for the remaining elephants to stay in your sub-par facility. Check your conscience!
Michael Q said…
It's sad Watoto past away . Every summer since 2007 my family and I go to the Woodland Park Zoo and see Chai, Bamboo and Watoto. Last summer I tried the feed the elephant and feeding Chai was my best memory of the zoo.

I've done a lot of research on whether Chai, Bamboo and Watoto should be transferred to a sanctuary or stay at the zoo. My opinion on this discussion is that before she past Watoto should be transferred to a sanctuary (PAWS) while Chai and Bamboo stay at the zoo. Since Woodland was moving Watoto in the first place why not send her to a sanctuary instead of another zoo.

As for Chai and Bamboo since they're staying at the zoo they should raise funds to enlarge their habitat and barn so they have more room to roam.

Rest in peace Watoto. You brought me joy and happiness. Thank you.

When I'm older I would like to work as a veterinarian or an elephant keeper.