(I’m running excerpts from posts this week as part of my annual review. This is the third of four 2016 year-in-review posts. Click on the link below the excerpt to read the full post. All these posts appeared on Blue Oklahoma and its companion blog Okie Funk. Simply put, the year 2016, as defined in posts on this blog, now in its thirteenth year, wasn’t a good one for Oklahoma in any general sense. From the state’s continuing earthquake crisis to a state budget shortfall that led to a nearly 16 percent funding cut for higher education to the typical right-wing theatrics of a Republican-dominated legislature, 2016 has become, in my mind, perhaps one of the worst years in state history, culminating in the coming presidency of the authoritarian and unpredictable Donald Trump. These are not normal times here or throughout the country, and the uncertainty of what might happen in the coming year has many people afraid and depressed. We need independent media voices now more than ever. Thanks for reading the blog, and don’t give up the progressive fight in 2017.—Kurt Hochenauer)
A petition that asks the Oklahoma City Zoo to send one of its older female elephants to a sanctuary now has more than 165,000 signatures, and the number continues to grow.
I wrote about the elephant Bamboo here on Aug. 22. The 49-year-old Bamboo, obtained along with the now deceased elephant Chai from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle last year, has apparently had problems integrating into what zoo officials call a “herd.”
Bamboo has apparently been bitten on the tail and suffered a gash on her trunk when she was attacked by another elephant. She has also apparently attacked another elephant and has been isolated at times from other elephants.
The zoo has called the process of Bamboo’s integration with the other elephants “normal,” a claim strongly rejected by many animal welfare advocates and many of those people who have circulated and signed the petition. The zoo recently tried to put up obstacles to make it more difficult for media outlets and animal welfare advocates to retrieve records about the health conditions of its animals but has apparently relented on this issue.
The issue of how the zoo deals with open records requests, however, is a developing story. The zoo has at least one open records request pending—I placed it—and it remains to be seen how it will process it.
Petition Grows To Free OKC Zoo Elephant Bamboo, September 12, 2016
Bamboo, the sole surviving elephant obtained by the Oklahoma City Zoo from a Seattle zoo, has suffered attacks from at least one or more elephants in her exhibit and is apparently kept frequently in isolation, according to zoo records.
The zoo documents were obtained through open-records requests by the Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants organization in Seattle. I personally retrieved the most recent set of documents at the Oklahoma City Zoo offices for the Seattle organization on Aug. 17.
Those records, along with previously obtained records, show 49-year-old Bamboo has had her tail bitten and, in one case, suffered “bleeding from its tail amputation site.” Later her trunk was gashed after another elephant charged her. Another elephant, 37-year-old Chai, also obtained by the Oklahoma City Zoo from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in 2015, died in January. Yet another elephant at the zoo, 4-year-old Malee, died last October.
The elephant deaths and Bamboo’s precarious living situation should obviously raise questions about the level of care given to elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo and just the difficulty of keeping large captive animals healthy under a real quality-of-life paradigm. Is it even reasonable to assume elephants can thrive in Oklahoma’s geographical and environmental conditions or in any zoo at all?
The Oklahoma City Zoo obtained the Seattle-based elephants in 2015 when Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, like some other zoos, decided to end their elephant exhibit because of overall concerns about keeping the large animals in captivity.
OKC Zoo Elephant Bamboo Endures Attacks, Isolation, August 22, 2016
The Oklahoman published an editorial Thursday about the state’s credit rating, but it omitted a major element of the current issue when it comes to the state’s finances.
To its credit, The Oklahoman did urge state leaders to “heed” the advice of credit rating agencies, which help determine the interest rates on bonds, but it failed to note that at least one of those agencies, Moody’s, gave a the state a “negative outlook” mark because the legislature and governor recently slashed funding to higher education by nearly 16 percent.
The Oklahoman noted the credit agencies were concerned about the state’s unstable revenue stream and its use of one-time money to balance the budget, and it even mentioned the recent tax cuts that have contributed to the financial shortfall, but not a word on the financial demise of the state colleges and universities. NewsOK.com has published at least one story on the issue, but, again, the recent editorial omits this main part of the story.
It’s telling that it takes people outside the state to remind state leaders that it’s important to have a viable public university system. Sure, colleges and universities are raising tuition this fall, but those increases don’t cover all the costs of the cuts. This means teaching positions could remain unfilled and class sizes could grow. It could mean students can’t get the courses they need to graduate. There’s also a chance that some students here could get priced out of a college education altogether. This is in a state that already has a low college graduation rate compared to other states.
Editorial Omits Higher Education Funding Cut Remarks, July 15, 2016