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VIDEO: San Diego Zoo elephants' pumpkin snack builds bonds

Posted at 1:15 PM, Oct 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-11 16:24:40-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Everyone is getting into the seasonal spirit this fall, including some of our biggest neighbors at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A herd of African elephants enjoyed a piece of fall, being treated to a 37-pound pumpkin to snack on last week courtesy of their zoo handlers.

The massive pumpkin was stuffed with cucumber, carrots, celery, and alfalfa pellets - something of a Thanksgiving special for the herd.

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But meal provided zookeepers the opportunity to help the animals exercise both their bodies and their social skills, according to the zoo.

"Providing them these opportunities to thrive sort of solidifies the social bonds and relationships in the herd," said Mindy Albright, lead keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. "Also, it keeps them searching their environment. Keeps them active and walking and thinking and being physical."

Elephant numbers have been declining around the world, the zoo said in a release, due to hunting and poaching, food availability, and human conflict. The African species has been listed as "vulnerable" due to their dwindling numbers and the Asian species is already considered "endangered."

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The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to a 13-member herd of African elephants, which is considered one of the most genetically valuable herds in North America. The original group of seven elephants arrived at the park from Swaziland in 2003. Since then, the herd's numbers have steadily increased, zoo officials say.