PORTLAND, Ore. — She was born big — with an outsize personality to match — and now her weight has reached quadruple digits: Lily, the Oregon Zoo’s youngest Asian elephant, tipped the scales at more than a 1,000 pounds this week, not quite 10 months after her birth last November.
“Lily’s not only a quick study, she’s a fast grower,” said Bob Lee, the zoo’s elephant curator. “She’s packed on more than 700 pounds in under 10 months. She gains about 2½ pounds every day even though she never stops moving.”
Lily, born Nov. 30, weighed a hefty 300 pounds at birth and has been described by zoo animal-care staff as a “spitfire.”
“She’s definitely not shy,” Lee said. “She competes with the bigger elephants for enrichment toys and treats. She doesn’t just wait for her turn — she’s right in there with the others being a true member of the herd. She likes carrots and apples, and she’s pulling leaves off branches just like mom. She’s still nursing, but the amount of milk she takes each day varies quite a bit now that she’s eating more solid food.”
To see video of Lily weighing in and spending some quality time with Rose-Tu and the rest of the herd, visit bit.ly/Lily1000.
Lily’s taste for fruit has allowed keepers to begin daily training sessions with the young elephant — encouraging her, through positive reinforcement, to participate in the routine checkups and veterinary tests needed for her healthcare.
“We train the elephants in a lot of behaviors geared toward their care,” said senior elephant keeper Shawn Finnell. “She’s learning to open her mouth so we can check her teeth and gums, and she’s learning to pick up her feet, which will be very helpful for her care throughout her life. Getting the animals to participate voluntarily makes it so much easier if we need to administer medical treatment.”
Like most kids, Lily likes to play.
“She’s been enjoying daily play sessions with her big brother, Sam,” Finnell said. “She’s usually the one who initiates the play. They like to play King of the Mountain on a huge sand pile. Sam always lets her win. Or she’ll splash into the pool and then bellow at the top of her lungs for Sam to come play with her. She’s not a quiet elephant.”
And like most kids, Lily is very inquisitive.
“She’s interested in everything around her,” said Lee. “Especially the construction taking place outside her habitat.”
In June, the zoo broke ground on Elephant Lands, a project that will quadruple the animals’ space and dramatically enhance their experiences and daily routines. The new habitat is scheduled to open in 2015. To learn more, visit oregonzoo.org/ElephantLands. To learn about the Oregon Zoo Foundation’s Campaign for Elephants — which will fund education- and conservation-based activities at Elephant Lands — call 503-220-5707 or visit oregonzoo.org/givetoelephants.
The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, which has spanned more than 50 years. Considered highly endangered in their range countries, Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. It is estimated that fewer than 40,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. Through the International Elephant Foundation and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo supports a broad range of elephant conservation efforts to help wild elephants.
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. Celebrating 125 years of community support, the zoo relies in part on donations through 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 trimet.org for fare and route information.
General zoo admission is $11.50 (ages 12-64), $10 for seniors (65 and up), $8.50 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 oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.