Samson ventures out, begins getting acquainted with Oregon Zoo elephant family
Visitors might hear some enthusiastic trumpeting around the Oregon Zoo this week as the resident Asian elephant family greets Samson, its newest member. After an acclimation period behind the scenes, the 8,000-pound pachyderm ventured into Elephant Lands on his own last week, and now caregivers are introducing him to his new herdmates, starting with Chendra.
The two elephants met in Forest Hall this week, touching trunks and walking the grounds together before heading outside to enjoy the sunshine. Though this was their first physical encounter, they've been hearing and smelling each other since Samson arrived at the zoo on April 11 from ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque, N.M.
"All of our elephants are eager to meet Samson," said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo's elephant program. "It's always exciting when an adult male joins the herd. He and Chendra are getting along really well."
Chendra was the perfect first introduction for Samson, according to Lee. The smallest female in the herd, she plays the role of "auntie" to youngsters Lily and Samudra, and — like Samson — is known for her easygoing demeanor. Caregivers expect to introduce Samson to more of his new family members later this week.
"The female elephants are especially excited about Samson," Lee said. "We anticipate a lot of vocalizing."
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.