Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants’ mission is to bring about the permanent closure of the Oregon Zoo’s elephant exhibit, freeing the elephants from captivity to sanctuaries. We will do this by blocking the Oregon Zoo’s breeding program and its possible plans for elephant importation.
Our activism began in 2008, when Metro, the regional government for the Portland area, successfully passed a $125 million zoo bond measure using bait and switch tactics by promising voters that funds would be spent to provide more humane conditions for elephants.
$31 million was to be dedicated to improving the lives of the eight elephants, $12 million was to establish a 240 acre off-site elephant reserve near Portland where the elephants would roam free.
Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants launched an aggressive campaign to pressure Metro and Oregon Zoo officials to honor their obligation to voters, but the zoo abandoned its plans for the off-site reserve, instead funneling millions of dollars earmarked for the reserve and millions more from other promised zoo projects to expand its on-site elephant exhibit.
Opened in 2015, the Oregon Zoo’s $59 million “Elephant Lands” is intended to house an aggressive elephant breeding operation with the goal of creating a “North American elephant herd” possibly to supply other zoos, theme parks and performance venues.
Since that time, three of the eight Oregon Zoo Elephants have died: Tusko and Rama, both suffering from tuberculosis, died as direct result of conditions and illnesses related to their captivity. Packy, born at the Oregon Zoo in 1964, and the Oregon Zoo’s “signature” elephant, suffering from many of the same illnesses and conditions including drug resistant tuberculosis, was euthanized in 2017. One of the remaining elephants, Sung-Surin, nicknamed “Shine”, was also diagnosed with tuberculosis in April of 2017.
Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants remains strongly committed to its fight to gain freedom for the remaining Oregon Zoo elephants and for captive elephants everywhere.