Oregon Zoo elephant photo goes viral, but is it real?

Oregon Zoo elephant photo goes viral, but is it real?
A meme showing an elephant at the Oregon Zoo hanging out with a sea lion has been making the viral rounds.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A photo of an Oregon Zoo elephant hanging out in the sea lion exhibit has been making the viral rounds on Facebook in Portland this week. It’s an adorable photo that has prompted thousands of “likes” and “shares.”

But being the skeptical journalists we are, many of us here in the KATU newsroom wondered if the photo was real, so we called up the Oregon Zoo.

It turns out the photo is indeed real, although it was taken back in 2007.

Zoo spokesman Hova Najarian explained how they’ve noticed the photo has been making the rounds, even though it was taken about five years ago.

At that time, Najarian explained, zookeepers regularly led female elephants like Chendra (pictured) on walks around the zoo grounds before it opened to the public.

“Meetings like the one with Gus the sea lion were not infrequent,” he explained.

So yes, the photo is real. But don’t expect the zoo’s newest elephant Lily to take any similar walks. Najarian said the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has since updated its policies and walks like this are no longer allowed.