Elephant Samson has fun in the sun with a pool party

May 2, 2019 - 2:14pm

Spring weather is making waves in Portland this week, and so is zoo elephant family

Spring has finally sprung at the Oregon Zoo, and one resident in particular is diving in headfirst — trunk and all. Samson, the 20-year-old male of the Asian elephant family, made a splash this week in the pool at Elephant Lands.

With the sun shining down and temperatures reaching a warm 70 degrees, the 9,900-pound pachyderm was eager to hit the pool. He dove for treats of apple and honeydew melon, and playfully splashed with his feet and trunk. After a quick break in the sun, Samson plunged back into the 160,000-gallon pool for another swim.

"He loves to play in the water," said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo elephant program. "Now that spring is here, I think Samson and the rest of the family will be spending a lot of time poolside."

Samson took his afternoon dip in the larger of two pools at Elephant Lands, which is 80 feet wide and 12 feet deep — perfect for a bull elephant who enjoys a good dive. Both pools incorporate state-of-the-art filtration and treatment systems that completely filter the water every hour to maintain quality and allow re-use. The pool also includes a play jet that sprays bursts of water, controlled remotely from a keeper area.

The zoo's award-winning Elephant Lands habitat, which opened in 2015, was designed to maximize activity and choice, with a variety of feeding methods that mimic the grazing habits of wild elephants — and plenty of opportunities to go for a swim.

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.