Clowns have been everywhere lately, and they're testy. No longer content to simply wear floppy shoes or pack into tiny cars, these days clowns in Seattle have been taking up a variety of causes - from appearing at May Day protests, to protesting the police use of pepper spray during Seattle Pride events, to last Sunday at Woodland Park Zoo, where a handful of clowns appeared to protest the way the elephants are kept.
|A member of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army protests on May Day.|
According to a punny post on the SPD's newly-revamped Blotter Blog, "The protesters were at the zoo to discuss the elephant in the room: elephants. Specifically, freeing them."
But seriously, the six clowns weren't joking around, as you can see from the video below that was posted to YouTube shortly after the event:
While members of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army have not returned messages seeking comment, Woodland Park Zoo Director of Public Affairs David Schaefer did. He says while the clowns may have added some flare to an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning at the zoo, the protest wasn't terribly unusual or unexpected. Schaefer says the clowns in question held a similar protest two weeks ago, and Woodland Park Zoo was aware they'd be gathering again last Sunday. He also says the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army is just the latest in a string of organizations that have protested the way elephants are kept at Woodland Park.
"We're disappointed. We're not happy. But it's not new to us," explains Schaefer, saying groups like PETA and the Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN) have frequently lobbied in the past for the elephants to be sent to an elephant sanctuary instead of a zoo.
One such group is Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, which states on its website:
For most of the year, Bamboo, Chai, and Watoto [Woodland Park's three elephants] live 16 - 17 hours a day in a small, barren barn room. When they finally get outdoors they only have a fraction of an acre. This is horribly cruel and inhumane to the planet's largest land mammal who needs to walk 10 - 30 miles a day for their physical and mental health. It's no wonder captive zoo elephants live decades shorter than their natural lifespan. And it's no wonder they all display repetitive stereotypic behaviors and some have arthritis, colic and chronic foot infections - all evidence of captivity-induced stress and suffering.
While organizations like PETA, NARN, Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and now the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army may take issue with the way Woodland Park's elephants are kept, Schaefer, while respectful of the groups' right to protest, says Woodland Park goes to great lengths to ensure all its animals are well cared for. He notes Woodland Park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a world-wide organization which Schaefer says sets "very specific standards" when it comes to the care and housing of zoo animals. He also says Woodland Park was one of the first zoos to utilize natural settings and habitats for its animals, starting in the early-to-mid '70s.
"The [elephant] exhibit is a pretty good one," offers Schaefer, noting Woodland Park's elephant exhibit has won awards in the past. "The elephants are well cared for."
Obviously many, including some area clowns, don't agree.