Though this day is most notable worldwide as the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster (a tragedy that I feel has been made a mockery of - but I won't get into that here), it is a far happier anniversary for the city of Portland, Oregon.
Today, Packy the elephant turns 50 years old.
Born to Belle (fathered by Thonglaw) on April 14, 1962 at 5:50 am, Packy was the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years, and only the second ever born in a zoo. He weighed in at a mere 225 pounds (he's now over 12,500). Life Magazine did an 11-page spread about his birth, and Packy become one of the country's most famous elephants. His birth helped researchers study elephant gestation periods, and started a whole new era of elephant welfare.
Packy got his name by way of a local radio station 'name the baby elephant' contest. The winning entry was a play on 'pachyderm'. And so Packy was dubbed.
The average lifespan of an elephant is generally 45 years, which makes Packy the oldest living male elephant in North America (according to Wikipedia and the Oregon Zoo website). He has fathered seven offspring in his years, two of which are still at the Oregon Zoo.
Packy receives a b-day cake every year, but this one will be extra special, made with two sheet pans of whole wheat bread mixed with shredded veggies, raisins, apples, sweet potatoes and bananas, and topped with marshmallow fluff frosting - w/ carrot 'candles'. This afternoon, he will be knighted by the Royal Rosarians. He will henceforth be known as 'Sir Packy'.
Hubby and I have never been to one of the celebrations, but so many people visit that there would be no place to park, and no way to get near the elephant enclosure anyway. Packy's parties have always been very popular events, and today thousands are expected to wander through the gates to visit him.
A few months ago while in a local shop I came across a packet of elephant pictures for $1. When I realized that they were pictures of Packy I snatched them up. One is a souvenir photo, the others were taken by someone visiting the zoo on Packy's public debut. The person selling the photos obviously didn't realize what she had. These pictures are worth quite a bit as collectibles. Aw well, her loss, my gain.
So, happy birthday Packy! May you live well for many more years.