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Reticulated Giraffe Calf at the SF Zoo

Soccer Time with Samudra

The Oregon Zoo's elephant calf, Samudra, turned five months old last week. ZooBorns has brought you a few updates on baby Sumadra and his hijinx. Now we find he has become quite the soccer player as well.


Samudra, the Oregon Zoo's celebrated Asian elephant calf, turns 5 months old today, and according to keepers he is more playful and inquisitive than ever.

"Sam is wandering farther away from his mom, Rose-Tu," said Bob Lee, senior elephant keeper at the zoo. "He's growing comfortable with not having her in sight, and he's exploring more of the barn on his own."

The "little guy" now weighs in at around 770 pounds, nearly 500 pounds more than his birth weight, and he has become less clumsy, keepers say.

"It appears he's developed some athletic ability," Lee said. "He loves playing with a blue ball, knocking it around with his trunk soccer-style."

Samudra, born Aug. 23, 2008, had a rough start to life when his mother, Rose-Tu, became confused after giving birth and nearly trampled him. Elephant keepers quickly intervened and were able to prevent the new mother from causing harm to her baby. Lee believes Rose-Tu became confused because she had never seen a birth before. Until Samudra's arrival, she had been the last elephant born at the zoo.

Zoo staff worked around the clock during the calf's first week of life to help ensure the critical reintroduction to Rose-Tu was working. The success rate for human-reared elephants is pretty low, Lee noted, so keepers "wanted more than anything for that mother-calf bond to become a strong one."

"It took a while," said Lee. "But now Rose-Tu is a loving and protective mother to Sam." 

The Oregon Zoo has a renowned breeding program for Asian elephants. More than 25 elephants have been born at the zoo, beginning with Packy in 1962. Samudra is the first third-generation elephant to be born in the United States.

An endangered species, Asian elephants are represented by an estimated 38,000 to 51,000 individuals living in fragmented populations in the wild. Agriculture, deforestation and conflict with humans pose a constant threat to wild Asian elephants.