When These Beasts Feast, Hold The Yeast


What does a 14,000-pound elephant eat?
Anything he wants.

Unless you’re Yossi, and you live in Israel, and it’s Passover.

Then it’s matzah and vegetables for a week.

Yossi, a 34-year-old African bush elephant, one of the largest-such pachyderms in captivity, joined the other animals at the Safari Park in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, in a chometz-free diet this week. People who follow Jewish tradition not only don’t eat leavened goods during Passover, but don’t feed those items to their pets. Or in the case of the popular Israeli attraction, to their assorted wild animals.

Safari Park encouraged its visitors to bring their discarded chometz items to the elephant enclosure in the weeks before Pesach — Yossi, hardly svelte at seven tons, ate well that week — then started weaning the animals off the bread and other non-kosher-for-Passover food they eat throughout the year.

This week: mostly corn and legumes.

The orangutans appeared to enjoy the culinary change, said curator Amalia Turkel.

“The fact is, that they are getting a novel food, something new that they haven’t tasted or a while, maybe not since last year,” Turkel said. “For them that’s interesting in the short term.”

An orangutan, above, munches on a piece of matzah. A primate keeper, left, offers some matzah to a ring-tailed lemur. An elderly Aldabra Giant Tortoise, below, apparently on a gluten-free diet, chews his meal of fresh vegetables.

News reports did not indicate if the animals preferred macaroons or jelly rings.

Safari Park staffers know to keep on Yossi’s good side. Last year he attacked and killed Atari, another elephant living in his pen. Yossi was apparently threatened by the dominance of Atari, a 46-year-old female. “Like a domestic murder,” said Itzik Franko, head elephant caretaker. “She didn’t stand a chance against him.”