Elephant family enjoys early morning pool party at zoo

June 13, 2019 - 3:29pm

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

Summer temps have arrived at the Oregon Zoo, and a few residents in particular are diving in headfirst — trunks and all. Before the zoo opened this morning, four members of the Asian elephant family took an early swim in the pool at Elephant Lands.

Samson and Rose were especially eager to jump in. With the sun rising over the zoo, the pair of pachyderms swam and played together in the water, using their trunks as snorkels. While their herdmates Shine and Chendra splashed on the beach, Rose and Samson headed back to the 160,000-gallon pool for another dip.

Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo's elephant program, came upon the herd playing in the water as he arrived for work.

"These elephants love to swim at all hours of the day, especially first thing in the morning," Lee said. "And now that summer weather is here, I think Samson, Rose and the rest of the family will be spending a lot of time poolside."

The elephant family took their early-bird swim in the larger of two pools at Elephant Lands, which is 80 feet wide and 12 feet deep — perfect for diving. 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.