A baby elephant born at the Oregon Zoo in November is officially not going to be part of a controversial traveling elephant show.
Baby elephant Lily was legally owned by California-based Have Trunk Will Travel until today, when the Oregon Zoo says it assumed legal ownership of her.
“Lily’s living arrangements were never in question,” zoo director Kim Smith said in a statement. “But this makes it official: Lily will live her life with her family herd, the way elephants should.”
Lily’s father, 13,000-pound Tusko, will also stay at the zoo after the Oregon Zoo Foundation, the zoo’s non-profit arm, paid $400,000 to get out of a loan agreement with the California company.
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An Oregon Zoo spokesman initially denied knowledge that there was a breeding contract that made it possible for Lily to go to the traveling elephant show, until Seattle Times reporter Michael J. Berens proved documentation of it. The company that operates the show has generated controversy over its 30-year history for its use of chains and bullhooks — long-handled, clawed-end training tools used to discipline elephants and train them to perform tricks.
The investigation of Lily’s breeding contract was part of a larger Seattle Times project called Glamour Beasts: The Dark Side of Elephant Captivity. Several stories show what circumstances have led to dwindling numbers of elephants at American zoos.