Private company says it won't take elephant calf from Ore. zoo

PORTLAND, Ore. - The private company that owns the new elephant calf at the Oregon Zoo said Tuesday evening it has no intention of taking the animal from the zoo.

After media reports erupted that the baby elephant was actually owned by the California elephant rental company, Have Trunk Will Travel, fear that the animal would be drafted into the circus spread.

Oregon Zoo officials insisted Tuesday that the new elephant will stay at the Oregon zoo for life. Later in the day, Have Trunk Will Travel released the following statement, saying it has never wanted to take the baby elephant from the zoo:

Have Trunk Will Travel has no intention and has never had any intention of coming to take Rose-Tu's calf. Have Trunk Will Travel supports Oregon Zoo's vision for elephants and has great appreciation for the way they care for elephants. We are very proud of the significant contribution we have made together for Asian elephants.

We could not be more excited about the birth of this new calf.

Many of the animals at the Oregon Zoo live under contract and are on loan for breeding, according to zoo officials.

And 99 percent of the time the animals, like Rose-Tu's baby, stay put, according to the Oregon Zoo's deputy director Chris Pfefferkorn.

The issue of animal ownership at zoos came to the forefront after news broke late Monday night that the Oregon Zoo's new, as yet unnamed pachyderm calf, is not owned by the zoo but by Have Trunk Will Travel.

At the zoo there are animals from all over, including Miami, San Diego and Racine, Wis. that are technically on loan.

More than 140 Asian elephants are part of a worldwide species survival program, sharing mating partners to preserve the species. They are all available to loan from zoo to zoo or private companies to help make sure the best possible mates match for breeding.

"More often than not we're sustaining the population so offspring is allowed to go to other zoos, and the population is allowed to grow," said Pfefferkorn.

The bigger the gene pool, the better, and elephants aren't the only animals sent out to breed. Other animals include birds, reptiles, fish, chimpanzees, tigers and lions.

Odds are some of the animals seen every day at the Oregon Zoo are loaners - like the lions.

"(The) lions came from San Diego, Virginia Zoo, and the Racine Zoo in Wisconsin, and we have loan agreements with them," said Pfefferkorn.

The lions have been at the Oregon Zoo since about 2007.

It's the same story for a number of other species - none who've outworn their welcome, including Lance the crocodile on loan from a private company since 1990.

"It's been 22 years, and he hasn't gone anywhere yet. We keep providing updates on the animal's condition to the owner, and they have no intention of moving him," said Pfefferkorn. "I think people need to understand that ownership doesn't determine location. Everybody I've worked with, they're very clear the welfare of the animals is No. 1."

The species survival programs oversee all the mating matchups for elephants, chimpanzees, slender snouted crocodiles and other species.

The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums has to give its stamp of approval before any zoo or private company can participate.