Elephants cool off with zoo pool party

May 28, 2020 - 4:51pm

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

Warm spring weather has arrived in the Northwest, and some of the area's largest residents are diving in headfirst — trunks and all. With the sun shining down and temperatures approaching 90 degrees, the Oregon Zoo elephant family was eager to hit the pool — diving for treats of apple and honeydew melon, and playfully splashing around.

"The two Sams — Samudra and Samson — especially love to play in the water," said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo elephant program. "Now that warm weather is here, I think the entire elephant family will be spending a lot of time poolside."

Zoo fans will have to wait a bit longer to see the elephants in person, as the zoo remains closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The Oregon Zoo Foundation is leading efforts to fund critical operating needs of the zoo during its closure. To contribute, go to oregonzoo.org/donate.

The elephants took their afternoon dip in the larger of two pools at Elephant Lands, which is 80 feet wide and 12 feet deep — big enough for the whole family to enjoy. The pool's state-of-the-art filtration and treatment system completely filters its 160,000 gallons of 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.