Zoo spends $400k to void contract, take ownership of elephants

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Zoo now officially owns Lily the elephant, taking over ownership from a controversial company called "Have Trunk Will Travel."

In a news release, the zoo said the agreement to take over ownership was official as of Friday morning.

News that the zoo didn't actually own Lily made headlines shortly after her birth in December. At the time of her birth, Lily was technically owned by Have Trunk Will Travel.

"Lily's living arrangements were never in question," said zoo director Kim Smith. "But this makes it official: Lily will live her life with her family herd, the way elephants should."

The zoo paid Have Trunk Will Travel $400,000 to void the loan agreement and retain ownership of Lily and her father Tusko. A zoo spokesman said the money came entirely from the Oregon Zoo Foundation, a private non-profit that raises money for the zoo.

The zoo said any future offspring of Tusko will also belong to them.

Smith said the zoo settled on the $400,000 price tag by calling around the elephant community to establish the value.

The uncertainty about Lily's fate and public perception of Have Trunk Will Travel led to criticism of the zoo in December. Have Trunk has been accused by several animal rights groups of abusing other elephants.

Smith said she understands the public wanted reassurance about Lily's fate, but she also took a shot at what the zoo called "misleading media reports."

"Given the sensationalized story people were first presented with, that's exactly how they should have reacted," Smith said. "If I thought for one minute that this baby was going to be taken from her mother taken from her home I would be outraged too. But Lily was never going away, and I think everyone understands that now."

KATU has reached out to Have Trunk Will Travel but did not hear back on Friday.

The zoo has plans to continue breeding with Tusko, but likely not for a few years.