Newest elephant in the herd meets two more of his Oregon Zoo family members
Samson, the newest member of the Oregon Zoo elephant family, continues to make himself at home with the herd. After exploring Elephant Lands and meeting Chendra last week, he's now getting to know Rose-Tu and her 5-year-old daughter Lily.
Their initial meeting took place last Friday inside Forest Hall. Rose-Tu and Lily rushed out to greet the newcomer, and all three began touching trunks and vocalizing loudly — especially Lily, who is known for her loud rumbles and chirps.
"It's always exciting when an adult male joins the herd," said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo's elephant program. "Belonging to a multigenerational family — with male elephants coming in and out of the herd at different times — is really stimulating for all of our elephants."
After their initial meeting, the three enjoyed some time together exploring Elephant Lands' outdoor areas. Chendra joined in as well, and guests could see all four chasing each other around the South Habitat. Visitors to the zoo might catch glimpses of the four pachyderms enjoying the sun this week as Samson spends more time with his new herdmates.
Though this was their first physical encounter, the elephants have been hearing and smelling each other since Samson arrived at the Oregon Zoo on April 11 from ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque, N.M.
Lee is hopeful that Samson will hit it off with Rose-Tu — mom to both Samudra and Lily — perhaps adding to the population of this highly endangered species. He also hopes the 20-year-old Samson can serve as a "big brother" to the younger male, Samudra, who turns 10 this year.
In a natural setting, Lee said, adult male elephants are not permanent members of family herds. The majority of their time spent with females is for courtship and breeding, and the rest of the time, they live apart, sometimes forming bachelor herds.
"Over the years, we've learned the importance of family and connection as a critical part of an elephant's full social life," Lee said. "Males coming in and out of the herd is essential to their health and wellbeing, and it's really great to see that happening."
Samson was born May 4, 1998, at African Lion Safari in Ontario, Canada, and moved to ABQ BioPark in 2003. His transfer to Portland was recommended by the Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants, a cooperative program aimed at supporting socially stable families and maintaining a sustainable, genetically diverse elephant population at facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, which has spanned more than 60 years. Considered highly endangered in their range countries, Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. It is estimated that just 40,000 to 50,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. The zoo supports a broad range of efforts to help wild elephants, and has established a $1 million endowment fund supporting Asian elephant conservation.