A 300-pound baby elephant born at the Oregon Zoo has become the focus of a nationwide debate about who really owns Rose Tu's calf.
According to a breeding contract, the zoo's newest addition belongs to a California-based company called Have Trunk Will Travel that rents elephants out for parties, TV shows and movies.
However, the Oregon Zoo and the California company both say Rose Tu's baby isn't going anywhere.
The company released a statement Tuesday night saying:
"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.
"We could not be more excited about the birth of this new calf."
The situation has sparked public outcry online through blogs and social media, including petitions demanding the baby elephant remain at the Oregon Zoo, after a Seattle Times article about the situation was posted online Monday night.
The zoo's director acknowledges a private company technically owns the calf, but she also said there are no plans for Have Trunk Will Travel to take the newborn away.
"I can assure you there's really no need for petitions on having the baby stay at the Oregon Zoo," said Kim Smith. "She is staying at the Oregon Zoo with her mother and her family. That was never in question. That has always been the plan."
The situation begins with Tusko, a male elephant on loan from Have Trunk Will Travel. Tusko is the father of the calf. The male elephant is also the father of Samudra, born in 2008 to Rose Tu.
The breeding contract obtained by Fox 12 says the zoo owns the first, third and fifth of Tusko's offspring, while the California company owns the second, fourth and sixth baby elephant.
"It just means they're named as an owner," Smith said. "They can't come here and take an animal."
Smith said a breeding agreement like this one is standard in the industry. She said Have Trunk Will Travel supports their vision of replicating the wild by having mother and daughter elephants stay together for life.
That company has come under fire in the past, after animal rights organizations released undercover video of elephants being hit with a stun gun or a tool called a bull hook, which has a sharp point used in an elephant's ear to train them.
Last year, the company released a statement about the videos saying, "We are unwavering in our commitment to elephants. We stand by our care and training methods. We are proud of our contributions to elephant welfare and conservation."
Have Trunk Will Travel also criticized the group that shot the video, saying it included "heavy editing" and was released six years after the video was taken.
"They love elephants just like we love elephants," Smith said.
Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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