In all my years working at Oakland Zoo I have never attended one of our events in which food is donated to the animals. When the Zoo asked if I was interested in writing a blog for one of these bi-annual events (that have become a tradition over the last decade) I was game. The event – now a tradition – is called “Feast for the Beasts.”
“Feast for the Beasts” is an event that not only allows people to donate fresh produce to the animals but also gives them the opportunity to learn about the creatures that reside here at the Zoo. At first, the event was intended for Zoo members only. However, it became so popular that the Zoo decided to turn it into a public event. People bring bananas, grapes, kiwi, apples, cabbage, lettuce, and other fresh produce for the animals to snack on.
Baboons climbed on poles to get their donated food while meerkats poked their heads into enrichment bags. And while the alligators consumed dead rats, the otters enjoyed their dead fish meal. As the Zoo keepers fed the animals, docents were on hand providing information about those animals. Watching the animals eat their food was fun but it was nothing compared to what happened at the Elephant Exhibit.
The biggest highlight of “Feast for the Beasts” was the feeding of theelephants. Twice a year guests come to the Zoo with their produce to receive a ticket to enter the Elephant Exhibit and spread out food. I was one of the many people who received a ticket. The keepers allowed us the pleasure of placing food virtually everywhere around the elephant habitat. Some people left the food in plain sight (i.e., on top of the rocks) or out of sight (i.e., inside a tube). We turned the dirt/grass area into a luscious, colorful buffet. After leaving the produce in the exhibit, we waited outside the area for the elephants to arrive.
Waiting in anticipation for the elephants to arrive, I didn’t even bother to think about what was on everybody’s minds as we waited for the elephants to enter. As I looked at the food that we placed inside the exhibit I kept thinking and thinking that this was going to be cool.
Then the elephants finally arrived and wasted no time getting their snack on. Once they spotted something (watermelons, carrots, apples, you name it) the elephants would quickly go in for their beloved sweet treats. Some would eat the food in its entirety while others would munch on it. The elephants also wrapped their trunks around a sponge-like object shaped like a sandbag and they turned over a tub to find more hidden food. No one could stop the beasts from enjoying all of that produce.
We were ecstatic to see the elephants munching on our produce. One person said, “May the melon be with you,” another person said, “Enjoy your fruit salad.” These behemoths ate their food like there’s no tomorrow. And to think all of this happened because the Zoo invited us to be involved in this festive event.
“Feast for the Beasts” is a great experience. It gave me the chance to view the animal feedings as well as become a part of the process in feeding the animals. I was happy to be part of this event and have the experience it provided me. I hope that the Zoo keeps the “Feast for the Beasts” tradition for many years to come.