Smashing day for zoo’s elephants

Janu with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

Janu with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm - Credit: Archant

With pumpkin fest on the horizon, Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm welcomed back Luke Downs and his giant pumpkins to the zoo.

Shaka with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

Shaka with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm - Credit: Archant

After giving Shaka, the African elephant, a 14-stone pumpkin last year, Luke made the decision to grow three pumpkins for each of the elephants at the zoo for Halloween this year.

Luke said: “I start by preparing the ground in April and then plant the seeds in May in the greenhouse and when the pumpkins are a decent size, I put them into the ground to continue growing.”

After the three pumpkins were put in the enclosure, the elephants were let in. Shaka, the oldest bull sauntered over slowly, assessing the situation.

The two smaller and younger elephants, M’Changa and Janu, ran over as soon as they realised there was something new and interesting.

M'Changa with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

M'Changa with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm - Credit: Archant


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M’Changa stamped on the first pumpkin with a loud crack, while Janu went on to the second.

After a satisfying crunch from Janu’s pumpkin, which was one meter in diameter, Shaka came over to investigate, prompting Janu to back away. Janu went back to help M’Changa finish off his pumpkin.

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Alpha bulls will usually be the first to eat and as Shaka is the dominant of this bachelor group, he decides what he wants, and the others follow suit.

Sandra De Rek, head elephant keeper at the zoo, said: “Shaka is the dominant bull and therefore in the bull group, what he says, goes.

Shaka with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

Shaka with the pumpkin. Picture: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm - Credit: Archant

“If he’d have got to all of them first, he would have eaten them all. Luckily for M’Changa and Janu, he walked the long way around the enclosure and so the young ones got to enjoy a pumpkin together before he got there.”

Elephants usually eat 150kg of food a day, starting with carrots in their enclosure.

It also provides enrichment for the mammals, getting them to use their trunks, tusks and feet to break up the giant squashes to make them bitesize.

After eating 270kg worth of pumpkin, the elephants turned their attention back to their normal-sized carrots.

Pumpkin Fest will run until Sunday at the zoo.

A mystery pumpkin trial, a social media pumpkin carving competition and yummy pumpkin treats will be on offer.

Pumpkins are available for sale at Noah’s Ark Farm Shop.

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