It’s decorative gourd season, motherfuckers.
The San Francisco Zoo is one of the country’s foremost zoological facilities — one that’s nestled less than 300 yards from the Pacific Ocean. During the pandemic, walks through the SF Zoo’s outdoor exhibits became a balm for tens of thousands. The zoo’s very footprint lent itself to social distancing; the Oakland Zoo found itself in a similar situation amid the pandemic’s height.
Both zoos also suffered great financial plights as a result of shelter-in-place edicts. (In fact, the East Bay animal park was on the verge of going bankrupt.) But as things continue returning to some semblance of normality, the San Francisco Zoo’s quirky seasonal displays and shows are also coming back into the frame.
Case in point: The recent gifting of big-as-fuck, quasi-decorative pumpkin to the zoo’s resident megafauna.
In a recent TikTok posted by the SF wildlife touchstone, one of San Francisco Zoo’s reticulated giraffes and a black rhino — two species of large African land mammals facing human-facilitated extinction — can be seen going to absolute town on a gigantic gourd.
Pumpkin season is officially here! Thank you to a generous couple who donated this gourd-geous giant pumpkin for Boone to enjoy! When they discovered a crack in this pumpkin and realized it wouldn’t make it to Halloween, they donated it to our animals. Many thanks 🎃 pic.twitter.com/VAb6IRZWH5
— San Francisco Zoo (@sfzoo) September 14, 2022
“Pumpkin season is officially here,” reads a tweet from the San Francisco Zoo. In the quick clip, the zoo’s male black rhino named Boone — named after the San Francisco 49ers’ former right tackle, Alex Boone — can be seen nudging the human-sized pumpkin. One member of the zoo’s herd of reticulated giraffes is filmed splaying its front legs outward, so it can munch on the fruit. (And, yes: Pumpkins are, in fact, fruits.)
Enrichment is an incredibly important factor in keeping captive animals mentally fit. Introducing novel stimuli — like, say, a giant pumpkin to toss around and tear open — helps reduce stress, increases animal welfare, and promotes overall animal health by allowing animals’ perceptions of control over their environment to expand. Just like how we humans can experience depression and lethargy as a result of our routines growing stagnant, so can animals, particularly mammals.
The newness of interacting with an orange, edible sphere placed inside their habitats offered a welcome break from their day-to-day activities.
“Thank you to a generous couple who donated this gourd-geous giant pumpkin for Boone to enjoy,” continues the tweet. “When they discovered a crack in this pumpkin and realized it wouldn’t make it to Halloween, they donated it to our animals. Many thanks.”
What a way to usher in mohterfuckin’ gourd szn.
You can buy tickets online at sfzoo.org/tickets; the zoo is currently operating at a limited capacity and all visitors must reserve tickets in advance; you can read San Francisco Zoo’s COVID-19 safety protocols and procedures, here.