The Elephant Turf War

"...[P]eople are not inspired by seeing unhealthy, neurotic elephants in tiny zoo enclosures."

Dam Good Example

The Feb. 22 cover story, "Tons of Trouble," correctly notes the importance of chinook salmon to the recovery of our endangered southern resident orca community. The decline of the Columbia River salmon runs may help to explain why the southern residents are not faring as well as their British Columbian cousins in the northern resident community. However, the story failed to note the importance of the restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem to orca recovery. The removal of two dams and the restoration of the Elwha River near Port Angeles is the largest salmon-recovery effort under way on the West Coast and is located within the core area of the southern resident community's home range. While the conflicts on the Columbia are critical to address, it is also important to remember that the two-decade effort to restore the Elwha ecosystem is now just a few years away. Hopefully our endangered orcas will hold on long enough to reap the benefits.

Fred Felleman


Untangling the Snake

A couple of follow-up points on David Neiwert's insightful cover story on the connection between orcas and Snake River salmon ["Tons of Trouble," Feb. 22].

First, a clarification: The new state law that calls for finding new water sources for farmers and fish in Eastern Washington is more about preventing harm to salmon from future water withdrawals than mitigating for salmon-killing dams. Restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River remains necessary if Snake River salmon and steelhead are to recover to healthy populations. Thanks to prime habitat above the lower Snake River dams in Idaho, Snake River fish have the most potential of any in the Columbia Basin to be restored to abundance.

Second, removing the four costly, outdated dams on the lower Snake would be good not only for Snake River salmon, orcas, and fishermen, but for farmers and communities all along the Columbia and Snake. As it is, these dams are draining our resources both regionally and from a national taxpayer perspective. A salmon-recovery plan that includes lower Snake dam removal would cost only about half the price tag of the current ineffective (and illegal) salmon plan, and a portion of the savings could be invested in technologies that would leave farmers and electric ratepayers in better shape than they are today.

All that's needed now is leadership from our elected leaders. They need to recognize that recovering Columbia Basin salmon could help Eastern Washington and the rest of the inland Northwest at the same time that it saves the whales.

Michael Garrity

Associate Director, Columbia Basin Programs, American Rivers Northwest Regional Office, Seattle

Shadow Elephants

In "The Elephant Turf War" [Feb. 22], zoo officials argue that elephants should not be sent to the Elephant Sanctuary because it is not accredited by the zoo association (AZA). This implies that the AZA system is the ultimate in quality elephant care and management. That is not true. It is in the traditional zoo system that many elephant health and behavioral problems occur.

The Elephant Sanctuary is accredited by the Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS), whose philosophy and guidelines focus on meeting the elephants' needs rather than forcing them to conform to a man-made system that often disregards those needs. TAOS guidelines mandate not only much more indoor and outdoor space but better quality of space, and prohibit the use of chains, bullhooks, electric prods, and other punishments that are allowed in the AZA system. Most importantly, TAOS facilities encourage elephants to behave like real elephants, rather than turning them into pathetic shadows of their species.

Nancy Farnam


Uninspiring Neuroses

Thank you for the article on elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, "The Elephant Turf War" [Feb. 22]. I appreciated reading the contrasting opinions of so many past and present zoo workers.

Nancy Hawkes' claim that seeing an elephant in the zoo makes people "more likely to donate time and money" to their preservation is wishful thinking. After many recent visits to the zoo, I can attest to the fact that people are not inspired by seeing unhealthy, neurotic elephants in tiny zoo enclosures. They become bored within a couple of minutes and move on to the next exhibit.

If Woodland Park Zoo donated all the money they spend on elephant care, it would probably far exceed the amount that "inspired" zoo visitors give to the cause of preserving elephants in the wild.

Diana Kantor

President, Northwest Animal Rights Network, Seattle

Tortured Bamboo

Marisa McQuilken's article "The Elephant Turf War" [Feb. 22] is saddening. As a former director of Woodland Park Zoo, from 1976 to 1984, I find it frustrating that an animal welfare organization has in 2006 listed the zoo as one of the nation's 10 worst in terms of elephant care. By contrast, in the late 1970s, the zoo received a rare No. 1 ranking from a major animal welfare institution, the Humane Society of the United States.

It is also disturbing that Bamboo is languishing in Point Defiance Zoo. Bamboo has been labeled a "bad elephant," yet at one time she was one of the sweetest-natured, brightest young elephants I have ever met. After I left in 1984, changes were introduced that must have been torture for Bamboo. It was decided that the elephants must be chained for about 16 hours every day: a time of forced immobility and unspeakable frustration for them. A climate of domination and what some zookeepers considered to be harsh treatment was introduced. Could any of this have had any effect on changes in Bamboo's behaviors and attitudes?

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has offered to take Bamboo. She'd have hundreds of acres to roam and would enjoy the critically important social benefits of being with other free-ranging elephants. The Woodland Park Zoo curator says Bamboo has "grown accustomed to spending much of her time with people" and must therefore stay in a zoo. I'm sure Point Defiance Zoo is doing the best it can, but Bamboo would benefit more at the sanctuary, spending time with elephants rather than people. Moving her to the sanctuary is what Bamboo deserves, and I would like to suggest it is what Seattle owes her.

David Hancocks

Carlton, Victoria, Australia

Not So Popular

As an Iranian who lived in Iran under the mullahs and maintains close contact with the old country, I must take issue with Geov Parrish's assertion in "War on Iran" [Feb. 22]: "The Tehran regime, for all its religious oppressiveness and rhetorical belligerence, has popular support, especially in responding to U.S. aggression."

The "popular support" for the regime is limited to roughly 15 percent of the population. What misleads some foreigners into overestimating this number is the forcefulness of this very vocal minority and their aggressive demonstrations of support for the establishment. Make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of Iranians despise this system and are held in check only by fear—the fear of knowing that this regime and its supporters are perfectly willing to engage in mass slaughter of helpless civilians to prolong their grasp on power.

A. Houtan

Atlantic City, NJ

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