Task force set up to examine treatment of zoo elephants

SEATTLE -- A local zoo that's been criticized for its treatment of elephants has a new task force in place to examine the future of its controversial exhibit.

Many hope the new task force will make a real difference for the elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, but others aren't convinced.

"As long as these elephants stay at Woodland Park Zoo, their conditions will only worsen," said Nicole Meyer of the Elephant Protection Campaign.

Members of the zoo's new elephant task force are hopeful they can change that perspective.

"The point of the task force is to take a look at the zoo's elephant program," said task force member Jan Hendrickson. "There's a very long list of questions that the zoo really needs to answer about its elephants program."

Hendrickson, the task force's co-chair and a former zoo director, said the 15 member panel will assemble a group of experts to evaluate the physical and mental well being of the elephants. In September, the task force will present its findings to the zoo's board of directors.

"We consider it a farce and very suspicious of the true objectives of this task force," Meyer said.

Not everyone agrees with the idea of a task force, saying the animals belong in a free-roaming preserve or sanctuary.

"Elephants are not suited well for captivity, and in a cold climate like Seattle they have to be locked in doors for a large portion of the day," Meyer said.

The task force will meet once a month between April and September, and the meeting will be open to the public.