Since the revelation this morning that the Oregon Zoo has a contract with private roadshow Have Trunk, Will Travel regarding the adorable baby elephant recently birthed at the Zoo, people have been going back and forth on an important question: What will happen to the baby?
According to the Seattle Times, the roadshow owns the unnamed little elephant and could come claim it after 30 days. The Oregon Zoo officials say they were in negotiations with Have Trunk, Will Travel, and the elephant will never leave the zoo.
The Oregonian had this interesting paragraph about the contract back in October 2011:
The new calf would remain at the zoo until he or she is at least 4, and perhaps permanently. Terms of the breeding loan give Have Trunk Will Travel a possible claim to the calf if such a move is approved by the Species Survival Plan, which manages captive-elephant populations.
You can read for yourself about the zoo's agreement with Have Trunk, Will Travel: Here is their contract (pdf).
The signed 2005 contract stipulates that the for-profit-elephant-peddling-company has rights to the baby elephant. However, the last line in the contract states, "Neither this agreement or any rights or privileges granted hereunder shall be assigned without prior written consent of both parties." That seems to indicate that the Zoo and company were always planning to hash out the details of elephant ownership as situations arose.
Given the zoo's position to keep the elephant, and HTWT emphatic support of keeping the new baby in Portland, it is unlikely she will be packing out any time soon. But the Zoo might have to pony up money to get out of the ownership claim written into their contract.
Regardless of what happens to this specific elephant, this has been an interesting (and alarming) look at how public zoos make deals with private companies to maintain their animal population.
Update 6:25 PM We just got a press release from Have Trunk, Will Travel. It included a whimsical logo and the following statement:
Have Trunk Will Travel has no intention and has never had any intention of
coming to take Rose-Tu’s calf. Have Trunk Will Travel supports Oregon Zoo’s vision for elephants and has great appreciation for the way they care for elephants. We are very proud of the significant contribution we have made together for Asian elephants.
—Cara Mico contributed reporting.