Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 9:05 am | Mostly Cloudy 59º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Advice

Elephants, Otters Get Thanksgiving Treat with Pumpkin Smash at Santa Barbara Zoo

Zoo staff will serve pumpkins to gorillas, lions, meerkats and other animals Thursday

Sujatha, an Asian elephant, enjoys a pumpkin snack much to the delight of zoo visitors Tuesday.
Sujatha, an Asian elephant, enjoys a pumpkin snack much to the delight of zoo visitors Tuesday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Two lumbering Asian elephants were let out of their enclosures Tuesday and discovered orange surprises placed around their home at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

As families and children watched, elephants Sujatha and Little Mac set their sights on the pumpkins left for them by zoo staff.

Each moved towards the pumpkins with concentration, wrapping their trunks around the smaller pumpkins before eating them and stomping on the larger vegetables with a satisfying thump that delighted the audience.

It was a little bit of a preview of what the public can see Thursday, when the zoo opens its doors to guests on Thanksgiving Day.

The zoo will be open on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and tickets will be sold until 2 p.m.

That’s when the elephants will again receive pumpkins as a treat, as will other zoo animals, including the western lowland gorillas, African lions, turkey vultures, slender-tailed meerkats, barnyard animals and others. 

Peeta, an Asian small-clawed otter, checks out a frozen pumpkin treat with cranberries and small fish as part of the zoo enrichment activites taking place this week. Click to view larger
Peeta, an Asian small-clawed otter, checks out a frozen pumpkin treat with cranberries and small fish as part of the zoo enrichment activites taking place this week. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

The zoo began doing the pumpkin smash seven years ago, and it’s been a hit with the public since.

It’s also used as enrichment for the animals to give them stimulation and exercise, said Sheri Horiszny, director of animal programs at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

“It’s grown every year,” she said.

In addition to the elephants, members of the public and media got to see smaller zoo residents enjoy a treat Tuesday.

Katniss and Peeta, the zoo’s Asian small-clawed otters, peeked out from hiding as the zoo’s animal nutritionist, Trent Barnhart, set down a pumpkin frozen with cranberries and small fish inside.

Asian elephants Sujatha and Little Mac enjoy pumpkins as a preview of Thursday’s pumpkin smash event. Click to view larger
Asian elephants Sujatha and Little Mac enjoy pumpkins as a preview of Thursday’s pumpkin smash event.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

As soon as Barnhart left the enclosure, the curious otters peeked out, delighting the onlooking children as the otters stood on their hind legs to survey the scene before turning their attention to their treats.

Seeing children and adults enjoy the animals makes it all worth it for zoo staff.

“That’s why we’re here, to make connections between people and animals,” Horiszny said. “That’s a highlight.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >