Packy was born on April 14, 1962. At birth he weighed 225 pounds. He is an Asian elephant at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon. What Packy is famous for is being the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in nearly 45 years! He is currently the tallest and oldest Asian elephant in the United States and quite possibly one of the tallest worldwide. He stands 10’ 6” at the shoulder and weighs about 13,500 pounds. Belle, Packy’s mother, was born in the wild in Bangkok around 1952. Thonglaw, Packy’s father, was also born wild in Cambodia around 1947. Both elephants were captured and brought to an elephant trainer named Morgan Berry in Seattle, Washington in 1959. July 19, 1960 Belle became pregnant with Packy at the Woodland Park Zoo. The pregnancy went undiscovered for a year! In the meantime, both eight year old Belle and thirteen year old Thonglaw, along with Morgan Berry’s other female, five year old, Pet, were being transferred between Seattle and Portland every year. They found out about Belle’s pregnancy in the summer of 1961. They decided not to tell the public until Belle gave birth. In January of 1962, Belle went into labor, so the staff at the zoo decided to release the news to the public. An article in the Oregonian about the pregnancy enabled Portlanders to learn of the pregnancy. Citizens were now eagerly anticipating the birth with much excitement! Late at night on April 13, Belle went into labor. After 21 months of pregnancy and five hours of labor, Belle gave birth to a male calf on April 14, 1962 at 5:48am. Following a contest, he was named Packy. Visitors from all over the world came to Portland to see the famous baby elephant. Countless Zoos and circuses wanted to buy Belle and Packy, however, Berry declined all offers except for Portland’s. After Portland raised enough money and made the purchase, Berry donated, Pet and Thonglaw to keep the herd intact.
Meanwhile, Thunglaw had also impregnated Pet as well as Rosy and Tuy Hoa, Portland’s own two females. Rosy gave birth to a female named Me-Tu on October 3rd, 1962 and on September 15th the following year, Pet gave birth to a male called Dino and on September 24th Tuy Hoa gave birth to a female called Hanako. On April 27, 1997, Packy’s mom Belle died of a foot infection.
Oregon Zoo is famous all over the world for its prolific Asian elephants. Twenty seven calves have been born there, with Fifteen sired by Thonglaw, seven by Packy, and one by Tunga. Packy is the only second generation captive bull to breed successfully in world zoo history. Two of his offspring, Rama, and Sung-Surin, are still at the Zoo.
On April 14, 2011 the beloved Packy turned 49 and the Oregon Zoo provided him with a scrumptious 40 pound whole wheat cake with frosting topped with celery and carrots. Typically Asian elephants live well into their late 50’s. The zoo’s elephant curator, Lee, knowing Packy’s robust health, feels confident Packy has many more years to come. For Packy’s 50th birthday the zoo will have music, crafts, and cake and will commemorate his place in history. The zoo plans to launch its 125th year around Packy’s birthday by breaking ground on an elephant exhibit expansion, made possible by the $125 million bond measure voters passed in November of 2008, according to Stephanie Cameron, a zoo spokeswoman.
Words by Glenda
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