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‘The Squishing of the Squash’: Portland’s elephants help usher in Halloween

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Asian elephants celebrate halloween with pumpkin-smashing spectacle
Asian elephants celebrate halloween with pumpkin-smashing spectacle   -   Copyright  Oregon Zoo/Cover-Images.com via /Oregon Zoo/Cover-Images.com
By Ben Anthony Horton  with AP

In preparation for Halloween, elephants at Oregon Zoo in the US are participating in their favourite annual tradition: the ‘Squishing of the Squash’ festival.

The event showcases the incredible strength of the wildlife park’s five Asian elephants, as they smash their way through a selection of giant squashes.

The pumpkins were donated by two members of the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers Club, an association of competitive gardeners famous for producing award-winning crops. One gourd weighed more than 650 pounds (300 kilograms).

The tradition - now in its 23rd year - dates back to 1999 when Hoffman’s Dairy Garden of Canby contributed a prize-winning 828-pound (376 kilogram) pumpkin. Local farmers used to donate overstock crops to help with the zoo’s enrichment programmes, hoping to provide "stimulating and challenging environments, objects and activities" for the animals.

And this year’s squash harvest was no exception.

Oregon Zoo/Cover-Images.com via /Oregon Zoo/Cover-Images.com
Elephants trample on giant pumpkins at Oregon ZooOregon Zoo/Cover-Images.com via /Oregon Zoo/Cover-Images.com

“They got one 650-pound pumpkin and a couple more pretty big ones to play with,” says Senior Keeper Dimas Dominguez.

“First they destroy them, then they enjoy them.”

The event normally attracts hundreds of visitors from around the city. But with social distancing requirements still in place, this year’s spectacle took place behind closed doors.

“The event was a little different this year, but the elephants didn’t seem to mind,” Dominquez smiles.

Watch the video above to find out more.

Video editor • Ben Anthony Horton