All the fanfare surrounding the birth of a baby elephant at the Oregon Zoo last week soon turned to peanut-throwing at zoo officials, after it emerged the calf would become the property of an elephant rental company when it turns 30 days old.
Looking to quell worry, executive director of the Oregon Zoo, Kim Smith, said today the elephant was always intended to remain at the zoo and that they were in talks to negotiate the ownership of the unnamed calf.
"Ownership doesn't really mean anything," Smith said. "It's not something that bares where this animal lives. This animal lives here."
The zoo said it had previously entered into a breeding loan agreement with Have Trunk Will Travel, a group that rents elephants to the entertainment industry. Under the rules of the contract, the 2nd, 4th and 6th offspring of the Have Trunk Will Travel's male elephant, Tusko, would become the property of the group.
The new calf, which was born on Friday, is the second offspring.
Smith said Have Trunk Will Travel has always been committed to keeping the calf at the zoo, where she can bond with her mother, however she stopped short of saying that was guaranteed.
"There has never been a question of where she was going to go, not once, not ever," Smith said of the elephant.
The discovery of the contract, which was first reported by the Seattle Times, prompted outrage among animal lovers.
"It would be very sad if the Portland Zoo gave up the baby elephant especailly [sic] to such a traveling side show! Separating it from her mother is bad enough," Jerry Loos wrote on the zoo's Facebook page.
Another poster, Rachel Davis, said if the claims were true, she would never visit the Oregon Zoo again.
"These regal creatures are among the most intelligent and sentient on the planet! I hope to high heaven that this isn't true," she wrote.
Have Trunk, Will Travel did not immediately return a request for comment.