Oregon Zoo's newest resident is 300 pounds of energy

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lisa Finster, of Tigard, smiles as Lily and mother Rose-Tu bond inside their enclosure at the Oregon Zoo. Finster was one of the first to see the baby elephant after winning an online contestAt more than 300 pounds, Lily, the newborn Asian elephant at the Oregon Zoo, has been attracting crowds for days at the Oregon Zoo, as spectators hope to catch a glimpse of her short trunk and gangly legs.

But one Tigard woman got a first-hand look at the great dane-sized baby elephant on Friday, before the big crowds were allowed inside.

Lisa Finster won an online competition naming the exact date and time the young Lily would be born.

“I saw it on Facebook, and thought, ‘Why not?’” Finster said outside the elephant enclosure. A sign on the enclosure’s front door read, “Pachyderm pending.”

No one — not even the elephant keepers — knew when the baby would arrive.

Elephants, with their 22-month gestation, can give birth anytime within a two-month window.

Keepers slept at the zoo for weeks as they waited for the youngster to arrive.

Finster’s prediction of Nov. 28 at 2:45 a.m. was within 26 minutes.

“You were right on,” elephant curator Bob Lee joked with Finster on Friday. “I wish you would have called me. You could have saved me a lot of sleepless nights.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lisa Finster, of Tigard, guessed the day and time when Lily, the Oregon Zoos new baby elephant, would be born.

Finster’s secret for elephant success was simple, she said.

“I figured everyone would want to be asleep,” Finster said, strolling through the Oregon Zoo in Portland. “That’s when it would happen.”

In truth, Finster said, it was just a lucky guess.

“For awhile I forgot what day I put down. I thought I was way off, and then I got an email saying that I won,” she said.

Finster, who grew up in Aloha, has spent her life visiting the Oregon Zoo.

“This is my zoo,” she said proudly. “I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember.”

As a teenager, she volunteered as a ZooTeen, working with the reptile exhibits.

“I’ve watched this place grow and develop,” Finster said.

Lily, oblivious to Finster or the other people watching, rolled around in sawdust and attempted to pick up a large branch with her trunk.

“She’s precious,” Finster said, taking dozens of photos on her iPhone. “She’s absolutely adorable.”

Standing near her, Lee smiled, too.

“She stood up as soon as she came out, and she hasn’t stopped moving since,” he said. “She couldn’t have waited 20 more minutes, or you would have been right on the nose.”

Finster plans to return to the zoo in a few weeks when family comes to visit. She can’t wait to see the zoo’s new elephant enclosure, known as Elephant Lands.

The new, expanded elephant habitat will double the elephant enclosure.

Construction is expected to start at the beginning of next year, with a tentative opening date of September 2014.

“Do you have a date on when that’s going to open, too?” Lee joked with Finster. “That would be great.”

Lily and Rose-Tu are currently on display at the zoo’s indoor viewing area of the Asian elephant exhibit from 10 a.m. to 2 TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Rose-Tu, left, and daughter Lily play with a branch at the Oregon Zoo. The pair are on display for the first time at the zoo since Rose-Tu went into labor a month ago.

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