California zoo animals feast on 13,000-pound fruit donation

BERKELEY Calif. Thu Jul 31, 2014 6:44pm EDT

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BERKELEY Calif. (Reuters) - Animals at a zoo in California's Bay Area received an unexpected and unusual feast after a delivery truck carrying exotic fruit crashed and spilled an estimated $50,000 worth of produce across a highway, officials said on Thursday.

Some of the animals at the Oakland Zoo were initially hesitant to tuck into the 13,000-pound (590 kg) donation of Thai bananas, a type of plantain, and prickly-skinned jackfruit, which can cost more than $35 each in California stores.

A bull elephant named Osh seemed especially skeptical, but many of the bears dived straight in to the treats.

"Jackfruit is definitely more of an unusual fruit than our animals are used to," said Nicky Mora, a spokeswoman for the zoo. "It sort of looks like a melon, but tastes like a banana with the texture of a green pepper."

She said the zoo received the donated fruit on Wednesday, and that there was so much that keepers began freezing leftovers on Thursday.

The fruit was making its way from Mexico to a large wholesale market in Oakland's Jack London Square on Monday when the delivery truck crashed into another truck on the highway.

No one was hurt, but about 50,000 pounds of the fruit was dumped onto the road, blocking lanes for several hours.

After the crash, All Seasons Produce, the wholesale fruit company that was shipping the fruit, called the FAIR Foundation, which helps children and adults in custody issues but has also worked with All Seasons in the past to coordinate produce donations for families in need.

Brian Deering, a spokesman for the foundation, said he arranged the fruit donation to the zoo, as well as a 37,000-pound (16.8 tons) donation to the Alameda County Food Bank in Oakland.

The donated fruit was delivered in remarkably good condition thanks to being packed in thick, cardboard shipping boxes, said Tiffany Kang of the Alameda Food Bank.

"It was all in good condition," she said.

(Reporting by Jennifer Chausee; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)

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