Willamette Week correctly notes that the month-old calf, whose one-month milestone was widely celebrated by the rest of local media, is now owned by what they refer to as a "traveling elephant show". True enough, although the reference is somewhat questionable; the elephants are often used in commercials - you've doubtless seen them dozens of times on tv in various ads.
Metro and its subsidiary seem pretty confident, however, as managers actually allowed the zoo's PR flack, Hova Najarian, out of her office long enough to mutter that "Negotiations to secure ownership are ongoing." She's been kept on a short leash ever since she denied that any contract between Metro's Oregon Zoo and the California-based company that owns the sire existed. After that claim was blown out of the water, she was confined to her office as Metro and the zoo went into full-blown damage-control mode. That new-found confidence may well be meritless.
Because the company now owns two of the eight elephants currently housed at Metro Oregon Zoo, the negotiations to which Hova refers are bound to be complicated - and expensive. Taxpayers in the Portland metro tri-county area under Metro control could well be looking at a payout in excess of half a million dollars if they wish to gain ownership of the precious little snowflake: the company-owned bull, "Tusko", has sired two calves here. Under terms of the contract, the first-born, "Samudra", belongs to Metro Oregon Zoo; the latest one belongs to the company.
"Samudra", a male, has relatively little economic value; females are much more valuable. Moreover, "Samudra" has largely outgrown his "cuteness" drawing power, and will increasingly become a drain on Metro Oregon Zoo resources as he matures. His addition brought the total number of aggressive and destructive bull Asian elephants to four, and two are overrepresented in the gene pool (and therefore unsuitable for breeding).
The zoo has only three cows, and "Rose-Tu" has produced both calves. "Sung-Surin" has likely passed the age for successful reproduction even if a suitable mate happened to be available, and "Chendra" (a small cow, blind in one eye after being shot while raiding crops as a wild animal in Malaysia) seems unlikely to successfully breed even though she posesses a valuable complement of genetic material.
The Metro Oregon Zoo is in a real bind, here: due to public outrage, they can't really ship the new calf back to California, and she may well hold potential as future breeding stock. At the same time, the company owns her, and given the position into which Metro Oregon Zoo's crack team of managers have placed themselves, the company has the upper hand in negotiations.
As well, Metro Oregon Zoo has outraged many in the tri-county area after having been forced to reveal that their plans for a large off-site "habitat" for elephants bears little resemblance to the concept sold to voters who approved their request for a multimillion-dollar bond measure. Their credibility is at an all-time low, and it will be interesting to see how they plan to escape from the holes that they've dug.