Asian elephant Samudra turns 10


'Class clown' of the zoo herd is known for his playful personality and love of water

Asian elephant Samudra turned 10 years old at the Oregon Zoo today, and it's safe to say birthday boys don't come much bigger. The playful pachyderm, who weighed 286 pounds at birth, now tips the scales at 7,545 pounds, and keepers expect him put on two to three more tons over the next decade.

"It's been exciting to watch him grow up," said Shawn Finnell, the zoo's senior elephant keeper. "He's getting more confident as he matures, but he still has the playfulness he was born with. He's kind of like the class clown of the herd, always fun to be around."

Samudra, born Aug. 23, 2008, is known for his love of water — his name means "ocean" in Sanskrit — and can often be found swimming in the 160,000-gallon pool at Elephant Lands.

"Samudra is such a happy-go-lucky elephant," said Shawn Finnell, the zoo's senior elephant keeper. "He's always been very social and he loves to play with his sister Lily and the rest of the herd."

Born Aug. 23, 2008, to Rose-Tu, Samudra was the first third-generation elephant born in the United States. He is also a true tusker, a genetic trait that is increasingly rare among Asian elephants.

As more elephants are killed for their ivory, fewer of those with the tusk gene have survived. Unlike African elephants, only male Asian elephants have tusks — and not all males do. The smaller incisors seen on females are known as "tushes" and do not grow into full tusks.

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.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

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