We all cherish our public parks. But approval of the levy means forking over $36 million of hard earned taxes to Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ)—a private organization—which is simply wrong. In zoos animals are denied the most basic instinctual behaviors that are important to them—like courting, mating, roaming, climbing, foraging and choosing others of their own kind with whom to socialize. As our communities’ acknowledge that even under the best of circumstances captivity cannot begin to replicate wild animals’ lives and habitats, it has lead to a 10-year trend that is unmistakable and accelerating: attendance at WPZ is declining while the region’s population is booming.
Despite their professed concern for animals, zoos can more accurately be described as “collections” of interesting animals than as actual havens or homes. Animals stressed and traumatized by zoo captivity often exhibit stereotypical behaviors not seen in wild animals such as pacing, walking in tight circles, swaying or rolling their heads, and showing other signs of psychological distress. At WPZ the gray wolves pace back and forth. The penguins swim in circles. And the orangutans try desperately to avoid observation from gawking crowds in their ravine-like enclosure by hiding under burlap or by placing buckets on their heads.
Since 2002, King County and Seattle taxpayers have provided nearly $200 million to WPZ. Yet as a private organization the zoo is exempt from public disclosure laws which means there is little oversight or transparency about WPZ’s care and treatment of the animals, despite partial funding from public sources. Rejecting this levy means that fewer dollars flowing to the zoo will ensure fewer wild animals suffering in zoo captivity.