Skip to main content

Elephants Chai and Bamboo resting at San Diego Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo’s female Asian elephants, Bamboo and Chai, spent the weekend at San Diego Zoo after their trip to Oklahoma City Zoo was rerouted due to a storm in Colorado and Wyoming that was expected to increase in severity. The pair continues to rest in comfort.

According to Dr. Nancy Hawkes, Woodland Park Zoo’s general curator, Bamboo, 48, and Chai, 36, are eating, sleeping and interacting with their keepers, all positive signs they are doing well. “Blood draws and other tests show no evidence of medical concerns. Both elephants are hydrated and they are moving about normally,” said Hawkes.

While at San Diego Zoo, the elephants are in an indoor facility in quarantine, which is standard procedure for any new animal at the zoo. The elephants have access to two large indoor rooms and an outdoor yard, all of which are off view to the public.

Woodland Park Zoo’s keepers are providing direct care to Bamboo and Chai; additional staff from the zoo flew to San Diego on Friday to assist and more are flying down this week. “While in transition at San Diego Zoo, it’s very comforting for our elephants that their keepers are present and taking care of them. Bamboo is showing signs of contentment by rumbling and purring to her keepers.” The keepers also are providing enrichment such as browse and hay feeders.

Extensive planning went into ensuring a safe transport for the elephants, as it does for all the zoo’s animals, and the transport consultant has specialized in moving elephants for nearly three decades. On April 15, Bamboo and Chai left Woodland Park Zoo on a custom-built elephant transport vehicle for their new home at Oklahoma City Zoo. The 2,000-mile journey was to take 35 to 40 hours, with stops every few hours to check on the animals’ well-being and to provide food and change water. The weather forecast was a possible minor disturbance for the mid-west region later in the week, more to the south. It was during a late afternoon stop in Ogden, Utah on April 16 when the team learned the storm had been updated to increased severity and to cover a much larger area more to the north. The decision was made to reroute south to Las Vegas then Kingman, Ariz. and take I-40.

Continuing on the southerly route would have kept the elephants on the road an extra day. Stops became more frequent to check on the welfare of the elephants, which slowed down the travel time. “In Las Vegas, the team assessed the elephants were getting tired and as a precaution we changed course to head to San Diego Zoo,” said Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO. “Their facility is set up with the appropriate equipment to unload our elephants, they had immediate room, and they have expert elephant and veterinary staff. Unfortunately, weather fronts and systems change unexpectedly. We would not have put our animals or our staff at risk had a severe storm been forecasted when they left Seattle.”

Woodland Park Zoo still plans on moving Bamboo and Chai to Oklahoma City Zoo where they can join a family with a larger, multi-generational herd, however, a timeline has not been determined when they will get on the road again. “For now we want to give our elephants some time to rest comfortably. We are very grateful to San Diego Zoo for mobilizing so quickly to accommodate our elephants and for their expert staff support,” said Jensen.


Anonymous said…
So glad there is an outdoor play area for their use during their stay! I hope there will later be photos of the elephants outdoors having fun.