PORTLAND -- Rose-Tu's newborn calf is owned by an elephant rental company called Have Trunk Will Travel.
The calf will remain at the zoo in perpetuity, Oregon Zoo director Kim Smith said Tuesday morning during a hastily called press conference to deal with the fallout of a Seattle Times story.
"They can't come here and take an animal," she said of the California company. The zoo and Have Trunk have a positive relationship and the company also wants to have the calf remain at the zoo."
While outlining what she characterized as a controversy created by the Seattle Times headline, she said the zoo and the company remained in negotiation over the specifics of the ownership contract.
The issue came to light with a Monday story in the Seattle Times that revealed details of the contract between the zoo and the California company. It's headline, "Portland's baby elephant belongs to traveling show" is accurate.
Have Trunk owns Tusko, the elephant that fathered Rose-Tu. He also earlier had fathered Samudra, born in 2008, who remains at the zoo.
According to the Times story, the contract calls for ownership of Tusko's second calf to go to the elephant traveling show. The deal calls for the second, fourth and sixth calves of Tusko to go to the company.
Have Trunk Will Travel owner Kari Johnson told the Times she was thrilled with the latest birth and cannot wait to see the calf. "We'll go for a visit. I can't wait to hug her," she said.
Elephants belonging to the company have appeared in "Evan Almighty," "Water for Elephants," "Operation Dumbo Drop" and other films, documentaries and commercials.
Smith said knowledge of the contractual agreement has never been hidden and has been publicized by the zoo and media in the past.
The Seattle Times reported that Hova Najarian, the zoo public information director, first denied knowing about the contract. After the Times provided a copy of the contract, the zoo responded with a prepared statement acknowledging its existence.
In annoucing the Tuesday morning press conference, the zoo invoked an Oct. 2011 Oregonian story as an example of media dissemination of the outside contract.
That story mentions in the 13th paragraph that Tusko is owned by HaveTrunk Will Travel. Several paragrahps later, the story says a new calf would remain at the zoo for at least four years, or permanently depending on negotiations with a captive elephant management group.
In a June 22nd story about the pregnancy, an Oregonian story mentions in the 22nd and last paragraph, the ownership agreement and possible fate of the calf.
Neither the zoo nor the Oregonian brought up the ownership agreement when the calf was born.