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Packy swims to beat the heat

Photo Credit: MICHAEL DURHAM, COURTESY OF THE OREGON ZOO. - Packy, the 52-year-old elephant at the Oregon Zoo, goes for a swim to cool off.With Monday's temperature predicted to hit close to 100 degrees, Packy, the oldest elephant at the Oregon Zoo, cooled off by taking a plunge in the 10-foot swimming hole in the elephant yard.

The zoo released video of Packy, the oldest male Asian elephant in North America, playing with a water jet and tossing a 500-pound log around. It can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPZQFsST7Dk&feature=youtu.be.

Zoo officials say such swims also help ease the normal aches and pains associated with old age. Although he is 52, keepers say his health is generally good but he is beginning to slow down.

“He’s a tough old guy,” says animal curator Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo’s world-renowned elephant program. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget Packy’s a geriatric elephant. At his age, we just want to give him the most comfortable life we can.”

Packy has also tested positive for tuberculosis. Zoo veterinarians say he is responding well to the most recent course of treatment and has shown no clinical signs of the illness.

Photo Credit: MICHAEL DURHAM, COURTESY OF THE OREGON ZOO. - Swims in the 10-foot pool are also good exercise for the aging elephant.“Packy’s advanced age is one thing we take into account in creating a treatment plan,” says zoo veterinarian Tim Storms. “We’ve been carefully watching his appetite and lab work. He’s tolerating his current medication regimen better than he has before and maintaining a good weight, and we’re hoping that continues.”

In 1962, Packy became the first elephant to be born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. Zoo officials say his birth helped scientists better understand elephants and opened the door to a new era in elephant welfare.

“Packy’s birth started it all,” Lee says. “The focus on elephant welfare, the knowledge about elephants. We’ve learned so much about this species since he was born, and we’re grateful for the chance to put all that knowledge into the new Elephant Lands habitat here at the Oregon Zoo.”

The Elephant Land project is being financed by a bond measure approved in 2009. The learn more about the project, visit www.oregonzoo.org/discover/new-zoo/elephant-lands.

The zoo is a service of Metro, the elected regional government. Some animal rights activists have demanded the zoo move Packy and the other elephants to a sanctuary. Metro President Tom Hughes has said that is not going to happen.

Photo Credit: MICHAEL DURHAM, COURTESY OF THE OREGON ZOO. - A 500 pound log is just a toy for Packy.Metro says the zoo is dedicated to inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. The zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General zoo admission is $11.50 (ages 12-64), $10 for seniors (65 and up), $8.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.