Skip to main content

Squishin' accomplished! Elephants smash giant pumpkins

Oct. 19, 2023, 2:18 p.m.
Topic: Animal well-being
Three elephants stand before three giant pumpkins outside

Asian elephant family takes part in 25th annual Squishing of the Squash

Some of the world’s largest land animals demolished some of the area’s largest pumpkins this morning during the Oregon Zoo’s 25th annual Squishing of the Squash.

“We gave our elephant family some extra-large pumpkins to stomp on and chomp on,” said Steve Lefave, who oversees the zoo’s Asian elephant area. “First they destroyed them, then they enjoyed them.”

The tradition dates back to 1999, when Hoffman’s Dairy Garden of Canby dropped off a prize-winning 828-pound pumpkin for the elephant family. Farmers often offered their overstock pumpkins for use in the zoo’s groundbreaking animal enrichment efforts — enhancing animals’ well-being with stimulating and challenging environments, objects and activities.  

The event is a lead-in to the zoo’s annual Howloween celebration, presented by BanfieldPet Hospital, which takes place later this month. Kids can show off their costumes and learn about wildlife in a fun and safe setting, Oct. 28­–29.  

This year’s pumpkins — provided by Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers Club member Larry Nelson and his daughter, Amanda Gilmour — ranged from about 500 to 700 pounds.

Wild Asian elephants face threats from habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. Only 40,000 to 50,000 of them remain, in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. The zoo has established a $1 million endowment fund supporting Asian elephant conservation.