PUMPKINS APLENTY: While it can charm the eye to see a small sea of globe-shaped orange gourds in the week leading up to Halloween, there is the question regarding where the remaining pumpkins go when the holiday is over (and, no, they don't all become pumpkin butter and pumpkin pie, although that seems like a pretty tasty use). A number of places in the same neck of the woods as Safari West -- so, Santa Rosa and its environs -- donate their remainders to the animal park, all in the name of conservation and animal enrichment. You've surely heard of animal enrichment programs at zoos and preserves, especially since several organizations keep enrichment wish lists online, making public sponsorship of a particular zoo denizen, or toy, much easier. Pumpkins qualify here, for they roll and they've got stems and when they're carved, well, look out; the animal that receives it will spend a good deal of time exploring the seedy wonder's various nooks and crannies. Which is just what is happening at Safari West every weekend ahead of Thanksgiving. Some of the many residents of the large preserve are getting a gourd-y treat, pumpkins meant to be "carved, kicked, clawed, smashed, eaten, or otherwise toyed with" by the beasties, all in the name of stimulation and play and learning. Not only is it a fine way to pass on past-Halloween pumpkins, but the public can lend some love, too.
HOW? If you visit Safari West on the aforementioned weekends before Thanksgiving, and you visit the conservation patch and find a pumpkin you're sweet on, you can sponsor it for five bucks (though feel free to give more, if you like). You can also weigh in on where you'd like your squashy sponsored goodie to go; hoof-stock, birds, small mammals, and carnivores are the choices. And bingo! Your five bucks -- or more -- "will go to the conservation organization sponsored by that department." Over $250 was raised over the first weekend, so it is a program with teeth and claws, both (a compliment at Safari West, where many of the marvelous creatures on-site also boast the same). Could more nature preserves welcome more pumpkins after Halloween, not just for animal photo-ops -- which always awww-inducing, to see a lemur crawling inside a jack o'lantern, of course, no argument there -- but to stir up support for conservation? It's happening now at Safari West. Again, you may not see the beasties playing with their enrichment-boosting pumpkins, but you'll know that your fiver is going to a fine 'n furry cause.