Oregon Zoos newest resident is 300 pounds of nonstop energy

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lily, who is less than a month old, plays with a stick inside her enclosure at the Oregon Zoo. She went on display last week to the TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lisa Finster, of Tigard, guessed the day and time when Lily, the Oregon Zoos new baby elephant, would be born.At more than 300 pounds, Lily, the newborn Asian elephant at the Oregon Zoo, has been attracting crowds for days as spectators hope to catch a glimpse of her short trunk and gangly legs.

But one Tigard woman got a firsthand 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.”

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

“I figured everyone would want to be asleep,” Finster said. “That’s when it would happen.”

But in truth, Finster said, it was just a lucky guess.

“For a while 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 p.m.

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