Pumpkins, pachyderms at the Topeka Zoo

TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Topeka Zoo needs pumpkins for upcoming Boo at the Zoo.

But the donation of a pumpkin, bigger than your head, means the chance to feed the zoo’s two elephants.

Sunda, the 55-year-old Asian elephant and Timbo, the 45-year-old African elephant wandered over to the fence line as families gathered to feed them Saturday afternoon.

“It was better than I thought it would be,” said Ariana Reck. “I’ve never been really up close to one and I’ve never seen that before. It was pretty interesting.”

Reck live in Prairie Village, Kan. with her family and was visiting the zoo with friends.

The group than usual, according to Shanna Simpson, the animal care supervisor at the zoo. On average, there will be about 40 people waiting near the wooden gates to feed the two elephants.

Joe Maloney, an elephant keeper, stood near the fence with a bucket of sweet pellets.

The pellets, about the size of a roll of quarters, are made of vegetable matter. The elephants don’t get them in their daily diet they which means they really like October, Maloney said.

“The leafier biscuit they love to eat,” he said. “And you can get up and personal and meet the elephants and see them a little closer than you normally get to.”

And those personal moment for zoo visitors made a big impression.

“I’ve never been really up close to one and I’ve never seen that before. It was pretty interesting,” Reck said.

Even Topeka residents were excited about the chance to do something at their hometown zoo they’ve never had.

“I thought it was great,” said Whitney Estenson. “I’ve been to this zoo a lot and I’ve never had a chance to come up to them this close. And it’s a fun experience for my daughter to come out and see them that close.”

And for the zoo, the behind-the-scenes look gives people another chance to connect with the animals.

“You know it’s one of the many reasons why zoos are so important,” Shanna Simpson, the animal care supervisor, said. “It motivates children and even adults to see these animals and have a moment with them.”

The feedings happen at 2 p.m. everyday except Oct. 23th and Oct. 31st, when Boo at the Zoo happens.

After the halloween-themed event, the animals will get the pumpkins to play with and eat, Simpson said.

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