PORTLAND – The Oregon Zoo now has the legal rights to elephants Lily and Tusko after buying them from Have Trunk Will Travel, the zoo announced Friday morning.
The zoo purchased Tusko and Lily for $400,000, thus voiding its loan agreement with the California-based company, said Kim Smith, the zoo’s director.
Tusko was on a breeding loan since 2005 and sired elephants Lily and Samudra.
The purchase was funded entirely by the Oregon Zoo Foundation and did not involve public money, Smith said.
“We are grateful to the dedicated donors who recognize the zoo as an important community asset and support our work through the Oregon Zoo Foundation,” Smith said in a news release. “The ongoing support these gifts provide not only made this ownership transfer possible but helps advance our daily efforts to create a better future for wildlife.”
Smith said she recognized the need for public reassurance about the fate of Rose-Tu's calf after early public outcry over reports concerning Have Trunk Will Travel.
“If I thought for one minute that this baby was going to be taken from her mother — taken from her home — I would be outraged too," Smith said. "But Lily was never going away, and I think everyone understands that now.”
Controversy first stirred when the Seattle Times published a two-part series outlining elephants in captivity. The article cited the Oregon Zoo's 2005 breeding loan for Tusko, which stipulated that his second, fourth and sixth offspring would be owned by Have Trunk Will Travel.
The zoo said the deal was a standard breeding agreement, and the company had no intention of taking the calf.
“This controversy was much ado about nothing,” Smith said. “But it’s still been incredibly gratifying to see our community come together like this on behalf of elephants.
The Oregon Zoo has a nationally recognized Asian Elephant program that has been breeding the highly endangered animals for 50 years.