Letters to the editor

Elephant regrets

Zoo provides care of much gentler nature than has been trumpeted

Editor, The Times:

We were dismayed to read David Hancocks' inflammatory commentary from Australia about elephant care at Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ), and even more disappointed that The Seattle Times would publish something so inaccurate ("Bamboo should be sent to a place where she can heal," guest commentary, Sept. 9).

The magnificent elephant facility at WPZ did not even exist when Mr. Hancocks was here more than 20 years ago, and he has not had responsibility for elephants at any facility since he left here. He was not here during the birth of Hansa in 2000 to witness the immediate adoration by her keepers and the tender care with which they guided her introductions to her "aunties" in the herd.

WPZ, along with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, is committed to the complex task of breeding our elephants in order to ensure that healthy populations will still be here to capture the awe and reverence of our grandchildren's grandchildren, many of whom will never see an elephant in the wild.

If we are to intelligently help save elephants in the wild, we must be intelligent stewards of those elephants in our care.

Our zoo has an excellent elephant program with a talented and caring staff. You have done our citizens an injustice by publishing a piece by an uninformed author alarming them with fictionalized stories.

— Carol Hosford, conservationist, chair, Animal Policy Committee;

Robert M. Liddell, M.D., member; James C. McGraw, D.D.S., member, Woodland Park Zoo Board, Seattle

From dawn to tusk

The Times takes pride in being "locally owned." In my opinion, you should exercise caution before unnecessarily alarming your local readers. David Hancocks' commentary regarding our elephant, Bamboo, was written by a man trained as an architect, living in Australia, without knowledge of elephant care today at Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ).

As curator of mammals, I and others at WPZ have that knowledge. I've been an elephant keeper at Woodland Park, Point Defiance and at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Our general curator, Dr. Nancy Hawkes, is respected internationally for her elephant expertise. Collectively, our staff has nearly 200 years of elephant-management experience. We find Hancocks' comments not only inaccurate, but offensive.

Our elephants are cared for in an award-winning facility. They play, communicate with each other, exercise, receive top-notch veterinary care, and are loved.

Furthermore, we continuously improve all our animal-care programs, including those for our elephants. Animal-management professionals from around the world come to Woodland Park Zoo to learn and share best practices.

We are enormously proud of our zoo, the staff and volunteers. These animals are our life's work. Anyone with doubts should come see for themselves.

— Bruce Upchurch, curator of mammals, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle

It is very like a wall

Elephants do indeed endure considerable mistreatment, great limitations on their lives, and outright pain and suffering in nearly all zoos. Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma are typical zoos that subject elephants to this treatment.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., is the place for all zoo elephants to be sent to. Zoos should no longer have elephants, since they subject elephants to conditions that are directly contrary to their well being, such as: isolation, solitary life; physical mistreatment from zoo employees including hitting, prodding, etc.; hard ground surfaces, causing considerable physical pain; no room to roam; no opportunity to socialize with other elephants.

Human beings are the cause of this problem. The zoos are simply responding to public interest for people to see animals in zoos for their enjoyment. People don't know, or care, about the quality of life of the elephants, what the best life for elephants is, and the suffering they endure in zoos.

— Dan Howitt, volunteer, In Defense of Animals, Portland

Everybody and ivory

After reading David Hancocks' commentary about the troubled Asian elephant, Bamboo, Woodland Park Zoo should do two things.

First, it should send Bamboo to The Elephant Sanctuary immediately.

Second, since they don't seem to understand how to be humane to their elephants, each WPZ administrator should place the following ancient Persian proverb on their office wall in a prominent place as a reminder:

"With kindness and a smile, you can lead an elephant with a thread."

— Jaimee Leroux, Seattle

Another dimension

Character in search of an exit

After reading "FEMA to stop issuing debit cards" [News, Sept 10], about the latest FEMA fiasco, I am angry and dismayed. Why can't these officials use some creativity? They should have known they did not have enough employees to do this.

If I were in charge of debit cards, the first thing would be to at least estimate the number of people in the large shelters and also in smaller communities to know the approximate number of cards needed. There are all kinds of people who can volunteer in this effort.

A plan before even beginning the process would be to get volunteers from banks to be at tables at the shelters and in smaller communities to process the cards. Have several lines according to alphabetized groups. Pass out pencils and forms to people in the lines to fill out before they reach the tables.

I am a lowly office manager and, in my past life, was a member of a women's religious community and, believe me, we know how to get things done. This is not rocket science!

I think it's time to kick all the bums out and start over.

— Karen Kasper, Seattle

A kind of stopwatch

Let me see if I have this straight. FEMA announced the distribution of debit cards, because too many people had been displaced and had no phone to apply or bank account for funds to be deposited.

The cards were to be distributed because the traditional way of getting money to those in need wouldn't work.

Now they have stopped the debit cards, saying they would return to the traditional way of having people apply online or by phone, and checks would be mailed or auto-deposited, and saying this was a pilot program and available only in a limited area.

I feel like I'm living in the Twilight Zone. Is it me, or is there some major disconnect here?

— Carolyn Horlor, Enumclaw