Baby elephant Samudra 'energized herd' at Zoo in first year - and snow

Baby elephant Samudra 'energized herd' at Zoo in first year - and snow

The following is a press release courtesy of the Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo's elephant program enjoyed a remarkable year in 2008, with Rose-Tu successfully giving birth to Samudra and local voters passing a $125 million zoo bond measure, of which $30 million will go toward expanding the current elephant exhibit and funding an off-site reserve.

Rose-Tu stayed physically fit during 2008 through brisk walks and daily workouts with her trainers. The zoo's comprehensive exercise program helped prepare Rose-Tu for the difficulty of labor, and on Aug. 23 she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Samudra.

Here's a video of Samudra in the snow.

"Sam's arrival completely energized the herd," said Mike Keele, zoo deputy director and Asian elephant Species Survival Plan coordinator for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. "A baby elephant is the most enriching life event a mother can experience. It's very similar to humans having a baby -- it's such a tremendous blessing for a family and it brings incredible joy."

In the fall, the community showed its strong support for the zoo -- despite a tough economic climate -- by passing a $125 million zoo bond measure with nearly 60 percent of the vote. The bond included funding for an expansion of the elephant exhibit and a proposed off-site reserve.

The zoo's Future for Wildlife program continued to fund projects to help Asian and African elephants in the wild. Zoo grants helped fund three separate elephant conservation projects, primarily to protect native elephant habitat and to mitigate the often-fatal human-elephant conflicts. These grants support elephants and keepers working as conservation response units in Sumatra, as well as community-based elephant conservation in Uganda (focusing on elephants, crops and people) and Cambodia (improving the livelihood for farmers).

The zoo's internationally recognized enrichment program, led by David Shepherdson, deputy conservation manager, also helped the zoo's elephants thrive by improving their social and problem-solving skills. Regularly scheduled walks around the zoo prior to opening allowed the female elephants to exercise and roam the grounds without barriers.

"The visual encounters the elephants have with other animals are enriching and stimulating for all," Keele said. "Dr. Shepherdson and our elephant team are constantly looking for new ways to engage these highly intelligent animals -- we will always strive to do more."

The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its successful breeding program for endangered Asian elephants, which has spanned nearly five decades. More than 25 elephants have been born at the zoo, beginning with Packy in 1962. The birth of Samudra continues the legacy.

In the photo below, Chendra, the smallest adult elephant at the Oregon Zoo, stops by the Steller Cove sea lion exhibit during one of her morning exercise walks. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

About the zoo

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington's pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and Kincaid's lupine. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63. Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.

Caption: Samudra, born Aug. 23, has brought new energy to the Oregon Zoo's Asian elephant herd. Pictured: Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.