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Zoo Animals to Feast on Pumpkins for Thanksgiving

Holiday hours will include enrichment talks throughout the day

The elephants and many other residents of the Santa Barbara Zoo will be given pumpkins on Thanksgiving Day.

The zoo will be open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday — a perfect outing for the family while the turkey is in the oven. Tickets will be sold until 2 p.m.

Food, scents, and natural objects are used as “enrichment” to give the animals stimulation and exercise. Enrichment also comes in the form of training the animals to recognize that a certain behavior leads to a reward — most often in the form of food or fun. Training animals to go to a certain area in their exhibit, for example, may allow keepers to examine, administer medication or even weigh the animal.

A tentative schedule of pumpkin enrichment with keeper talks includes:

» 10:15 a.m.: Asian elephant
» 11 a.m.: African lion
» Noon: Gorilla
» 12:30 p.m.: Ground hornbill
» 1 p.m.: Turkey vulture
» 1:15 p.m.: Asian elephant
» 1:30 p.m.: Barnyard
» 1:45 p.m.: Desert tortoise
» 2 p.m.: Asian small-clawed otter

All talks are held at the animals’ exhibits. Other animals receive pumpkins throughout the day, but are not associated with a specific time or keeper talk.

— Julia McHugh is public relations director for the Santa Barbara Zoo.

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