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Zoo Keeps Gorillas Kosher for Passover

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: April 20, 2005

Filed at 12:10 p.m. ET

RAMAT GAN, Israel (AP) -- When Passover comes around, even gorillas in Israel keep kosher. In line with many other Israelis busy cleaning their homes to remove bread-related products for the Passover holiday that begins Saturday night, the Safari Park Zoo near Tel Aviv does the same.

Since the zookeepers and handlers cannot touch any leavened products during the weeklong holiday that marks the biblical Jewish exodus from Egypt, the gorillas and other animals are also fed matzo -- the unleavened cracker Jews eat to remember that in their rush to flee slavery, the ancient Israelites' bread did not have time to rise.

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Accustomed to eating a slice of bread with cream cheese every morning, beginning Tuesday the gorillas and other animals at the safari were fed matzo instead, said Emelia Turkel, the zoo's curator.

''This turns out to be an interesting time for the gorillas and for the other animals because they get a bit of a change in diet,'' Turkel said. ''We call this environmental enrichment, Jewish style.''

The zoo has always fed the animals matzo during the Passover holiday, Turkel said, but try to limit their intake to just one or two crackers a day to prevent them from suffering from the most common side-effect of matzo -- constipation.

''If they eat too much it does cause stomach problems, so we hope that our public this week will not be feeding their own matzo to the animals,'' Turkel said.

Watching the zookeepers throw matzos to the excited gorillas -- romping in the grassy area after the crackers -- visitors to the safari laughed and joked about the holiday tradition.

''I think it's a good idea for them. They're influenced by the Jews here,'' said Moshe, a visitor to the safari who gave only his first name.


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