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Portland, November 30th.  The long wait is over. Rose-Tu, an 18-year-old Asian elephant, gave birth to a 300-pound female calf at the Oregon Zoo at 2:17 a.m.

“We’re all delighted at the arrival of Rose-Tu’s new calf,” said Kim Smith, Oregon Zoo director. “The calf is beautiful, healthy, tall and very vigorous. As soon as she hit the ground — before she was even out of the amniotic sac — she was wiggling. And she’s vocalizing loudly. The first time we heard her, the sound was so deep and loud that we thought it was Shine. She’s definitely got a great set of pipes, and it looks like she’s going to be a real pistol.”

Smith said Rose-Tu is doing well after more than 30 hours of labor and more than 21 months of pregnancy, thanks to a daily exercise regimen that has kept her in top shape. Zoo staff and much of the surrounding community had been on baby watch since Nov. 25, when Rose-Tu’s progesterone levels dropped to near zero, indicating labor should begin soon. Rose-Tu entered early labor in the afternoon of Nov. 28 and began showing signs of active labor around midnight last night.

“The main thing determining that will be the strength of the bond between Rose-Tu and the calf,” said Bob Lee, the zoo’s elephant curator. “Rose should allow the calf to nurse regularly, sleep, play and generally act like a calf without trying to stop it and control its movements. Then we’ll determine whether she’s calm and comfortable with staff around. And finally, we want to make sure the calf has had a chance to bond with the rest of the herd.”

Now that elephant keepers know the calf is a girl, they’ll choose a short list of possible names and the zoo’s elephant fans will have a chance to vote online, the same way they helped name big brother Samudra in 2008. Keep an eye on oregonzoo.org for more information.

Excitement over the arrival of a new baby elephant was dampened today as Oregon Zoo staff made the difficult decision to euthanize Coco the chimpanzee, one of the zoo’s most beloved long-term residents.

“Coco was beloved to staff, volunteers and visitors,” said curator Jennifer Davis, who oversees the zoo’s primate area. “During her 50 years here, she touched many lives.”

At around 60 years old, Coco had been the oldest animal at the Oregon Zoo and the second-oldest chimp in the entire U.S. zoo population. The median life expectancy for chimpanzees is 31.7 years for males and 38.7 years for females.

“Coco was quite elderly for a chimp,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, she suffered a debilitating health setback earlier in the week and her quality of life had diminished to the point where euthanizing her was the most humane option.”

Coco, the Oregon Zoo’s oldest resident, was euthanized today after suffering a debilitating health setback earlier in the week. She was around 60 years old. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

Coco, the Oregon Zoo’s oldest resident, was euthanized  after suffering a debilitating health setback earlier in the week. She was around 60 years old. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

Coco’s actual date of birth is unknown. She was born in the wild around 1952, came to the United States through the pet trade (legal at the time) and was donated to the zoo by her owner in 1961.

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.

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. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.

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