UPDATED WITH STATEMENTS FROM OREGON ZOO'S PRESS CONFERENCE BELOW
I'm sure the Oregon Zoo meant to let us in on the fact the baby elephant they've been crowing about for the past few days might not actually stay. I'm sure they were just waiting for the conversation to lead to a natural segue about how, before she was even born, the elephant was promised to an entertainment company that will charge willing customers up to $500 bucks to clamber onto this elephant's back and ride it in circles for a couple minutes before the next yokel in line forks his cash over. Unfortunately, those negative nancies at the Seattle Times somehow managed to beat them to breaking that news.
It's completely possible they made sure to mention Rose Tu's bonding with the child as super-important and a positive step in her growth as a mother, they just weren't all too sure as to how they were going to tie that to the fact it doesn't matter that she didn't boot this squalling fruit of her elephantine loins across the zoo like she did the last baby, because in a month, Have Trunk Will Travel will, if it so wishes, just swing by and take this 300lb lump of cuteness off Portland's hands.
In fact, it's all the more cruel that the baby she seems to care about is the one she might not get to keep, and the stupidly symbolic, overly-earnest baby names chosen for Portland to vote on won't matter because should Have Trunk Will Travel choose to keep the baby, they could just call it Lil Tusko, after her gigolo father who was rented out to the Zoo as part of a deal: Impregnate Rose Tu, and Have Trunk Will Travel gets the rights to the even numbered babies successfully birthed into captivity.
Have Trunk Will Travel is a company, by the way, known for its use of chains and bullhooks to train the elephants, has come under criticism for offering elephant rides at regional fairs, and is trying to break into the lucrative "Elephant Rides as a Vital Part of your Wedding Reception" market.
I'm sure the Oregon Zoo meant to bring all this up at some point before now. But I guess a hastily called press conference will have to do.
UPDATE: Kim Smith, executive director of the Oregon Zoo confirms the agreement between Have Trunk Will Travel as reported in the Seattle Times, calls it a standard breeding agreement, representative of most agreements in the industry, and says that it's completely transparent and has been previously reported upon in the media. Says that the baby was always intended to stay in the zoo, and thanks to the really strong relationship with Have Trunk Will Travel, they believe there's no intent on Have Trunk's behalf to reclaim the elephant, nor was there ever any intent to remove the elephant from the Zoo. They are currently in negotiations to assume ownership of the animal, negotiations that may or may not involve monetary compensation depending on how they move forward, and Smith reiterates multiple times that "This isn't really a big deal," even though she refused multiple chances to say whether there's a guarantee from Have Trunk that they will not exercise their right to take the animal.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!