Oregon Zoo male elephants meet for first time; keepers hoping for ‘big brother’ relationship

Samudra and Samson, Oregon Zoo elephants. (Image: Oregon Zoo)

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Two male Oregon Zoo elephants met for the first time Thursday.

Ten-year-old Samudra and 21-year-old Samson touched trunks, shared some snacks and got to know each other during their first physical encounter at the zoo.

Zoo keepers said they appeared to be fast friends.

Keepers said the two elephants have been seeing, hearing and smelling each other since Samson first arrived at the Oregon Zoo last year from ABQ BioPark Zoo in New Mexico.

Bob Lee, who oversees the Oregon Zoo’s elephant program, said Samudra is maturing into an adult and can benefit from the companionship of an older male.

The two Sams are close in size. Samson weighs around 9,800 pounds, while Samudra is around 8,230 pounds. Samson is a little taller, but Samudra is still growing.

Both elephants are true “tuskers,” a genetic trait that is increasingly rare among Asian elephants, according to zoo keepers. Unlike African elephants, only male Asian elephants have tusks — and not all males do. As more elephants are killed for their ivory, fewer of those with the tusk gene have survived. The smaller incisors seen on females and some males are known as “tushes” and do not grow into full tusks.

Samudra was the first third-generation elephant born in the U.S. He is known for his love of water — his name means “ocean” in Sanskrit — and can often be found swimming in the 160,000-gallon pool at Elephant Lands.

Samson’s transfer to Portland was recommended by the Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants, a cooperative program aimed at supporting socially stable families and maintaining a sustainable, genetically diverse elephant population at facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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