Voters give baby elephant a nautical moniker

Voters give baby elephant a nautical moniker »Play Video
Photos courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.
This is a press release courtesy of the Oregon Zoo

The zoo's baby elephant finally has a name. Samudra, or Sam for short, is Hindi for "lord of the ocean." The name was deemed appropriate by keepers, since the calf loves his baths.

"We received more than 17,000 votes," said Mike Keele, the zoo's deputy director. "Our mission is inspiring our community to create a better future for wildlife. The number of votes and the many e-mails show us just how inspired our community is by this calf."

Last week, Oregon Zoo elephant keepers submitted five names to the public for a vote, Samudra along with four others:

·    Amul: Hindi for "priceless, of inestimable worth."
·    Bao: Chinese for "precious treasure."
·    Duc (rhymes with look): Vietnamese for "good, moral, desire." (Also is a
portion of former Trail Blazer Kevin Duckworth's name, honoring the late basketball player.)
·    Hugo-Tu: Honoring the baby's mother, Rose-Tu, and maternal grandfather,
Hugo. Hugo comes from the Germanic word for "mind, heart or spirit" and Tu is Vietnamese for "tree."

Samudra was the overwhelming favorite among voters. Of 17,372 votes cast, Samudra received 6,102 -- more than 35 percent. Hugo-Tu was the runner-up, receiving nearly 23 percent of the votes, while Bao came in third with around 17 percent. Duc (14 percent) and Amul (10 percent) completed the ballot.

"We believe with the public's help we've succeeded in giving the calf a name that suits his personality," Keele said.

Samudra, born Aug. 23 at 3:56 p.m. at the zoo, had a rough start to life when Rose-Tu became confused after giving birth and nearly trampled him.
Elephant keepers quickly intervened and were able to prevent the new mother from causing any harm to her baby. Keele believes Rose-Tu became confused because she had never seen a birth before. Until the new baby's arrival, she herself had been the last elephant born at the zoo.

Rose-Tu, born Aug. 31, 1994, is a popular elephant within the herd and with her keepers. She is always looking to tease her herd mates and shares a strong friendship with Chendra, who is nearly the same age. Rose-Tu is the second-smallest adult elephant in the herd, weighing about 7,600 pounds. She conceived in late 2006.

The Oregon Zoo has a renowned breeding program for endangered Asian elephants.  More than 25 elephants have been born at the zoo, beginning with Packy in 1962. The new calf is the first third-generation elephant to be born in the United States.

As Samudra grows older, father Tusko -- a 13,500-pound, 36-year-old Asian elephant -- will   be introduced and allowed to interact with him, as well.

Tusko arrived at the zoo in June 2005 on a breeding loan. He has successfully sired three calves in the past -- two while living in Canada and one in California.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants recommended that Rose-Tu be bred with Tusko. The AZA, of which the Oregon Zoo is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of the endangered elephants in North America.

Currently, birth rates are lower than necessary to do so. With few bulls and low birth rates -- combined with an aging female population -- the North American elephant population is at of risk becoming extinct.

In the late 1990s, scientists warned zoos that unless a reproductive management program was undertaken, North America was in danger of not sustaining a viable elephant population. Statistics indicate that if females do not become pregnant by the age of 25, their ability to reproduce is severely diminished.

An endangered species, Asian elephants are represented by an estimated 38,000 to 51,000 individuals living in fragmented populations in the wild.
Agriculture, deforestation and conflict with humans pose a constant threat to wild Asian elephants.

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington's pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and Kincaid's lupine. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63.
Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit for fare and route information.

General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at or by calling 503-226-1561.