Visitors watched some of the world’s largest land animals demolish a couple of the area’s largest pumpkins at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18, during the Oregon Zoo’s annual Squishing of the Squash.
“Our elephant family got one 800-pound pumpkin and another 600-pound one to stomp on, play with and munch on,” said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo elephant area.
The event is a precursor to the zoo’s annual Howloween celebration, which takes place over the next two weekends is free with zoo admission. On Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27, Trick-or-treaters can fill their bags with goodies and learn about wildlife. Scavenger hunts and activities are themed to teach kids about animals around the world, and their habitats and adaptations.
The giant pumpkins for this year’s Squishing of the Squash were provided by Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers Club members Larry and Christy Nelson of Albany, Ore. Enrichment items such as pumpkins help keep the zoo’s animals mentally and physically stimulated.
The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, which has spanned more than 60 years. Considered highly endangered in their range countries, Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. It is estimated that just 40,000 to 50,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. The zoo supports a broad range of efforts to help wild elephants, and has established a $1 million endowment fund supporting Asian elephant conservation.
Committed to conservation, Oregon Zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. Celebrating 125 years of community support, the zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.