By June Williams
SEATTLE (CN) - Moving two zoo elephants from Seattle to Oklahoma will cause the animals undue suffering and violate the Endangered Species Act, animal activists claim in court.
The Elephant Justice Project sued Seattle's Woodland Park Zoological Society and Oklahoma City Zoological Trust, to prevent the endangered Asian elephants Chai and Bamboo from being permanently shipped to the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The federal complaint says the elephants will be hauled in uninsulated cargo space and the 40-hour trip might injure or kill them.
"Fritz Enterprises, Inc. or another commercial transporter will transport Bamboo and Chai in separate uninsulated crates on trucks at highway speeds for the approximately forty-hour trek from Seattle to Oklahoma City. This trip requires the trucks to cross multiple mountain passes and will occur during inclement and unpredictable weather," the 22-page complaint states.
"The elephant cargo space of the conveyance(s) defendants and/or Fritz Enterprises, Inc. will use, or cause another to use, to transport Bamboo and Chai are not designed and constructed to ensure Bamboo's and Chai's safety and comfort at all times and will lack necessary features including facilities to ensure the elephants do not fall or lie down, video or equivalent monitoring that relays to elephant care professionals, and adequate climate controls."
The group claims that the trip will "capture, harm, harass, wound, and/or kill Bamboo and Chai," by "subjecting them to extreme or uncomfortable temperatures, malnutrition, stress, injury, and/or conditions that result in one or both elephants' collapse."
"Bull hooks and/or electric prods will be used during loading, unloading, and/or transport of Bamboo and/or Chai, which will harm, harass, and wound Bamboo and/or Chai," according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say the Endangered Species Act prohibits harassment or injury of threatened wildlife, and transporting endangered animals "in the course of a commercial activity."
Chai and Bamboo suffer from foot disease and display signs of chronic stress due to their small habitat, the complaint states.
Woodland Park Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit in November 2014 after years of public criticism about treatment of the animals. The zoo chose to send the elephants to Oklahoma City instead of a sanctuary in California or Tennessee, as activists had hoped.
The Elephant Justice Project wants the transfer stopped until the zoos comply with the Endangered Species Act.
The group is represented by Knoll Lowney, with Smith & Lowney.