Lily, the baby elephant at the Oregon Zoo, turned one month old this week—an occasion the zoo noted with Facebook photos of the calf gallivanting about the elephant exhibit with her herd.
But the birthday also quietly marked a deadline. At one month, Lily's legal ownership transfers to Have Trunk Will Travel, a California-based traveling elephant show.
Those are the terms of a contract the zoo drew up in 2008 in exchange for the zoo's right to the breeding services of bull elephant Tusko, Lily's father.
Both the Oregon Zoo and Have Trunk Will Travel responded to the ensuing controversy by saying the elephant rental company has no intention of taking Lily. And the zoo says it is still negotiating to buy both Lily and Tusko. Previous sales suggest the baby elephant's market value could be as high as $500,000.
"Negotiations to secure ownership are ongoing," zoo spokesman Hova Najarian told WW on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Have Trunk Will Travel is facing unrelated problems.
The city of Los Angeles is considering a ban on circus elephants and elephant shows, and the owner of Perris, Calif.-based Have Trunk Will Travel told The New York Times last week that the law could destroy her business.
“I believe if something drastic doesn’t happen, then we will be the last generation that trains elephants,” Kari Johnson told the Times.
Earlier in December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released records showing that Have Trunk Will Travel was charged with violating the federal Animal Welfare Act for not properly supervising elephant rides at a fair in South Dakota.
No fine was listed in the report, and the violation—not providing a resting elephant with a keeper at all times—was corrected at the fair.