Video: Pumpkins for elephants
A pumpkin is both a treat and a toy to the residents at Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary, a specialized farm off the beaten path near the outskirts of Guy and Quitman.
A horse trailer piled high with pumpkins and other gourd varieties was unloaded into the sanctuary and farm’s hay barn Tuesday, the fruits of a yearly post-fall collection hosted by Simmons First National Bank’s Conway Commons location.
The pumpkins will be given as supplements or treats to the elephants as part of their winter diets.
When elephant handler Stacy Wolfson rolled two pumpkins into a temporary holding location for Asian elephants Booper and Peggy, one of the animals immediately stomped on the fruit, and the other rolled one around the enclosure.
Both shortly ate the pumpkins, and interns brought more while a small group from the bank watched.
The farm is now home to six elephants, according to Wolfson, and more are on temporary breeding loan to zoos in the United States.
Wolfson said the elephants will stay on loan until they’ve successfully bred with another elephant in captivity, and the animals will stay through the lengthy gestation period until birth before returning to life on the farm.
“We do breed elephants here when breeding occurs naturally,” Wolfson said. “We’ve had four natural conceptions and three births here.”
Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary was incorporated in 1990 under owners Scott and Heidi Riddle.
Wolfson said the farm is the only in the country that will accept any elephant, regardless of its demeanor.
The farm’s primary function, she said, is to provide a place for elephants with nowhere to go.
“They come from the private sector, as in private elephant owners, and from zoos and circuses,” she said.
A 20-year veteran at the farm, Hank “the tank,” is on breeding loan at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Wolfson explained.
Hank is the largest elephant in North America, according to Wolfson, and he has gained national attention.
Peggy and Booper are retired circus performers according to the elephants’ biographies listed on the sanctuary’s website.
On Tuesday, two interns were assisting handlers Wolfson and Christine Delturco.
Abigail Johnson, New York City native and student at Hunter College, had been on the farm one week. She had four more to go as she used Riddle’s as the field for her study of animal behavior.
Johnson said she has been hard at work “hosing everything and shoveling.”
“We just do whatever needs to be done — whatever they don’t have time for,” Johnson said.
Intern and volunteer Shawn Fisher, of Australia, was on his third stint at the farm.
He said he is an aspiring elephant handler, and he previously worked at a zoo.
Fisher said he first heard of Riddle’s through an associate who recommended the sanctuary.
“The best elephant handlers know about Scott (Riddle),” he said.
Fisher said he is traveling the world and stopping to work with elephants “until the money runs out.”
Riddle’s, located at 233 Pumpkin Center Circle, is open to tours the first Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)