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Elephants enjoy Easter treats thanks to local preschool

April 20, 2019

FAIRHOPE — Easter treats are not just for kids.

Elephants at the Pittsburgh Zoo’s International Conservation Center enjoyed their own Easter hunt Wednesday thanks to a local preschool.

The project started when elephant keeper Laykin Cole spoke to the kids at the Ready Steps Preschool at Country Kids Day Care in Somerset. Her 4-year-old cousin attends the day care.

“All the kids were so excited,” she said.

Cole spent about two hours talking to the kids about the elephants.

Preschool owner Sue Gibbs then talked to Cole about how they could help.

“She did something for us, so we thought we could do something for the elephants,” she said.

They came up with the idea to make enrichment items for the elephants.

“We made treat boxes and one big box,” Gibbs said.

Cole talked to Gibbs about the types of snacks the elephants could eat, a mix of fruits, vegetables, doughnuts and their favorite treat — marshmallow Peeps.

Using nontoxic paint, the kids at the preschool and day care decorated the boxes that contained snacks. Handlers also added hay to the boxes.

“For us it is going to be an ongoing project,” Gibbs said. “At least once a month we will try to make a box or stuff toilet paper rolls with molasses and oats. It is a cool educational project, an art project and all those things are different things that is a treat for the elephants.”

This week the treats were given to Seeni, Sukiri and Bette, as peeps were spread out inside their barn, creating an Easter peep hunt for the elephants.

Cole said the treats also serve as enrichment devices for the elephants.

“We’re trying to keep them busy,” Cole said. “It also helps them to replicate movements like they do in the wild, like foraging.”

Cole said they would like to work with other schools to provide treats for the elephants.

“We want to open it up a little bit at a time,” Cole said.

As the elephants played with their boxes, they looked around to make sure they picked up every pastel-colored peep.

“Whatever is sweeter is better. Then they go for the fruit — like children,” Cole said.