The Oregon Zoo testified last month in support of state legislation to ban the sale of ivory.
The zoo’s deputy conservation manager had the perfect sound bite:
“Humans can survive without ivory," said David Shepherdson. "Elephants can’t."
Behind the scenes, however, Shepherdson and other zoo officials are seeking an exemption from the measure, known as Senate Bill 913. It may not be a matter of the institution’s survival, but for somewhat hazy reasons,
it is not ready to forgo the benefits of its ivory stockpile.
Minutes of a Metro Council work session in March state that because the Oregon Zoo “has an ivory collection and produces ivory naturally because of its elephant collection, it is asking for an exemption … in order to dispel potential liabilities.”
While Grant Spickelmier, education curator for the Oregon Zoo, insisted that “we have no intention of selling ivory,” no one at the work session got clarification of what it means to “dispel potential liabilities.”
Nevertheless, every councilor supported the amendment except Sam Chase, whose district includes Northwest Portland.