By: Megan Canterbury, Tucson News Now Intern
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) – Reid Park Zoo threw a piñata party this past weekend in honor of Punga the Pachyderm's sixth birthday.
Punga, one of five elephants in a breeding herd living at the zoo got a surprise on Saturday, March 16 when zoo keepers presented him and his family with cardboard "piñatas" to break open and play with.
Flowing Wells Zoo Club volunteers assembled these piñatas for the elephants under the supervision of zoo keepers, filling plain cardboard boxes with enriching toys and tasty treats, then wrapping the boxes in paper.
Vivian Van Peenen, Education Curator for Reid Park Zoo said that the elephants love to stomp on and play with the toys and boxes. Its a great way to break up their day and get the public involved in happenings at the zoo.
Even though the piñatas contain their normal food, the elephants usually end up munching on the cardboard and paper wrappings. Not to worry, administrative staff inspects all of the piñata components for staples, tape and glue, things that could harm the animals if ingested. Veterinarians have also cleared untainted paper products as not harmful to the animal.
Van Peenen, along with the rest of the zoo staff, believes it is very important to stimulate the animals and get them excited. "Our goal is to not put the same food in the same bowl in the same place everyday," she said.
Elephants aren't the only zoo residents to receive special piñatas. Bears, otters and lions enjoy them on special occasions, too.
The elephants will receive piñatas every week this summer so that kids participating in the zoo's summer program can help with the festivities.
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