Our Mission

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. She was put in quarantine for over 6 months and as of December 2017, is considered not infectious and is able to mingle with the herd. But the problem of possible TB contraction by other elephants persists for the Oregon Zoo.

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.

Our Goals: 2018


To halt the failed breeding program that has resulted in the early deaths of many elephants and condemned the world’s largest land mammals to small, barren enclosures for life.


To halt any plans to import elephants from the wild. And to ensure the safety of the elephants and keepers, we encourage the zoo to move in the direction of more progressive zoos and institute protected contact.


To bring about the permanent closure of the Oregon Zoo’s elephant exhibit and free the elephants to sanctuaries.

Priority 2018: Chendra to Sanctuary


Chendra was brought to the Oregon Zoo in 1999 at around the age of four. It is said that she was an orphan and had to be rescued to the zoo to save her life. We question whether there was another sanctuary in Southeast Asia that could have taken her. Within a few months of her arrival at the Zoo, Chendra developed foot problems which continue to this day.  She is blind in one eye, and has experienced bullying from other elephants at the zoo.  She exhibits profound stereotypical behavior and deserves the opportunity to live the rest of her life in a warm, dry, spacious and serene sanctuary.


Recent News About Packy

On February 9, 2017, Packy was put down at the zoo.

In the fall of 2016, Packy was diagnosed with an active strain of TB, the same strain that humans contract, but is not seen in elephants born and raised in the wild.

After 3 years of  unsuccessful TB drug treatment,  the zoo staff discovered that Packy was not cured of his disease and despite protests by the public and his keeper, he was injected with a cocktail of lethal drugs and died.

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