Smashing pumpkins at the zoo set for Oct. 26

By Mike Fossano

The Woodward Spine ©2011

I know what you’re probably thinking, but no, Billy Corgan and his bandmates du jour of will not be making their way down to the corner of 10 Mile and Woodward anytime soon. There’s always the chance that Michigan native and former Corgan cohort D’Arcy Wretzky may stumble through, but chances are she’ll be too busy building fences and picking up horse dung on her farm.

These smashing pumpkins involve less guitars and microphones and more bears, monkeys and yes, literally smashing pumpkins.

On Wednesday, October 26, animals at the Detroit Zoo will receive pumpkins filled with tasty treats to eat, play with, roll around in, tear apart and smash.

Each year around Halloween, the Zoo’s animal welfare staff provides environmental enrichment in the form of pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks as special holiday treats for the animals. The enrichment items will be hidden throughout the animals’ habitats and strategically placed to help stimulate their natural behaviors.

For example, while the zebras prefer cornstalks, gorillas have become known for their intense hankerings for pasta-stuffed carved-out pumpkins.

“The gorillas enjoy digging in and eating the ghoulish spaghetti,” said Animal Welfare Manager Elizabeth Arbaugh. She also said that the other animals will enjoy pushing, playing with, smashing and devouring their treats.

Enrichment Schedule:

• 10 a.m. – vultures (treat-filled pumpkins)

• 10:30 a.m. – gorillas and chimps (spaghetti-filled pumpkins)

• 11 a.m. – snow monkeys (Halloween treats)

• 11:30 a.m. – rhinos (pumpkins and cornstalks)

• Noon – zebras (corn stalks)

• 12:30 p.m. – wolverines (piñata, pumpkins and spaghetti)

• 1 p.m. – bison (pumpkins and cornstalks)

• 1:30 p.m. – polar bears (pumpkins)

• 2 p.m. – bear-den bears (Halloween treats)

• 2:30 p.m. – anteaters (Halloween treats)

The Halloween treats are just one of many forms of environmental enrichment that the animals receive daily at the Detroit Zoo to enhance their habitats, making them more dynamic and engaging. It includes the introduction of novel and sometimes unpredictable elements such as objects, sounds, scents or other stimuli that give the animals the opportunity to express choice and control in their environments and to make decisions, express individuality and behave in species-typical ways.

Detroit Zoological Society Quick Hits:

– The nonprofits Detroit Zoological Society is celebrating its 100th year and operates both the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo.

– The Detroit Zoo sits on 125 of naturalistic habitats at the intersection of 10 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, just off I-696, in Royal Oak.

– The Zoo is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the day after Labor Day through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March.

– Admission is $12 for adults 15 to 61, $10 for senior citizens 62 and older, and $8 for children 2 to 14 (children under 2 are free).

– The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round; admission is free.

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