1962 was a big year for the Oregon Zoo. A 225 lb baby was born — a baby elephant named Packy. The birth of this “precocious pachyderm” as he was often called, launched the zoo (then called the Portland Zoological Gardens) into the national spotlight because he was the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in over 44 years. That year baby Packy drew a record number of visitors to the zoo — more than 1.2 million.
Today Packy is close to an elephant senior citizen. He’ll turn 49 this spring. Most elephants live to be 60 to 70 years old. The man who helped bring him into the world — the zoo’s first veterinarian — Matthew Maberry, has written a book with his wife Patricia that chronicles Packy’s story, simply called, Packy & Me.
Since the time of Packy’s birth, the zoo has seen many changes including two name changes. In 1976 it was renamed the Washington Park Zoo, and has been called the Oregon Zoo since 1998. Today Metro, the regional government of Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas counties, owns the zoo, and plans to expand the elephant program, with hopes to build a 200 acre off-site elephant center where the herd can grow for generations.
With the decline of natural wildlife habitat around the world, the role of zoos has evolved from being menageries of exotic species to increasingly focus on conservation education.
Do you remember Packy’s birth? What changes have you noticed in the Oregon Zoo over the years? What role do you think zoos play in wildlife and habitat conservation?
- Dr. Matthew Maberry - Former veterinarian of the Oregon Zoo
- Patricia Maberry - Wife of Dr. Maberry, co-author of Packy & Me, Matthew Maberry’s life story
- Mike Keele - Oregon Zoo Director of Elephant Habitats
- Rebecca Culler - Education specialist at Wildlife Habitat Council