The Oregon Zoo hopes to retain possession of the baby elephant that was born Friday in Portland, but the animal is owned by a company that runs a traveling pachyderm show.
The zoo confirmed a report in the Seattle Times that the calf is owned by a Perris, Calif., company called Have Trunk Will Travel under a breeding contract that sent the father, Tusko, to the zoo in 2005.
The report came as a surprise to some, garnering emotional responses from fans of the zoo's newest media darling. The 300-pound femal Asian elephant calf generated national news with her birth last week.
The company's ownership means that the baby could be fated to be part of a controversial traveling elephant show that rents animals out to the entertainment industry and for paid elephant rides, according to the Seattle Times.
Under the agreement, the zoo kept the first calf born to mother Rose-Tu and father Tusko. That calf, Samudra, was born in 2008. The company gets to keep the second, fourth and sixth offspring.
"The contract is valid. As per the agreement, official designation of ownership takes effect after the calf has lived 30 days," the zoo said in a statement to the newspaper. "Once that happens, the Oregon Zoo will be in discussion with Have Trunk Will Travel regarding ownership, and it is the zoo's intent to retain Rose-Tu's calf."
Have Trunk Will Travel will own the calf 30 days after birth, although zoo officials hope it will remain at the zoo, NBC affiliate KGW reported.
Early Tuesday, the zoo's director reiterated a statement that the baby will live out its years at the Oregon Zoo, and said negotiations with Have Trunk Will Travel were ongoing, according to The Oregonian.
A name for the baby elephant is to be chosen through an online vote.