ZooLights: A Lot Going on Among the Animals

Niya Hamilton, Staff Writer

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ZooLights is a free event that the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, DC offers to the public each year. The event exhibits entertaining beautiful lights, shows, and, of course, animals.

ZooLights is open from November 23rd until January 1st – though it is closed December 24, 25, and 31. It also features a special activity for adults only on November 29, when “Brewlights” takes over and 20 different brewing companies come out and provide food and refreshments.

The traditional ZooLights event is open from 5-9 pm, with the zoo still keeping its regular hours starting each day at 9am. This year they have added more fun attractions. As the event grows every year, the creators of the show add something more exciting, such as rides around the park, laser light shows, a gingerbread village, and also Grump market that sells handmade soaps, sweets, jewelry, prints,and a letterpress cards, among other items.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo website, the zoo was founded by William Temple Hornaday, who served as chief taxidermist at the Smithsonian from 1882 to 1887. He was the first to become the head of Department of Living Animals. Hornaday brought 15 species to live on the national mall in 1886, including deer, foxes, prairie dogs, badgers, lynx, and bison. The site states, “In 1889 President Grover cleveland officially signed an act of congress into law creating the National zoological Park for the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people, “The park was officially opened in 1891 in Rock Creek in the Northwestern part of Washington, DC.

Today, the zoo features 390 species and over 2,700 animals live in the Smithsonian Zoo today. The Asian elephant is the largest living land animal, smaller than it’s African cousin. Brains of the Asian elephants weigh about 9 to 13 pounds, their trunks are used as nose and their upper lip contains no bones, muscles, blood vessels, and more. The Giant Pandas are not an animal that really likes visitors. Sometimes they want to enjoy themselves away from everyone else in a quiet enclosure. They weigh about 220-250 pounds depending on the gender. Pandas eat 20-40 pounds of bamboo every day , and can spend up to 10 to 16 hours eating. The Dama gazelle is the least visited animal in the zoo. The largest gazelle species  compared to the largest deer is very small weighing 88-190 pounds, They eat orchard grass, hay, and alfalfa hay. In addition, they eat roughly 2.5 pounds of herbivore pellet per day, with leaf eater biscuits and browse as treats.

Today, FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) has provided the Zoo with financial support and educational programs, and managed the ZOO’s large volunteer force. The zoo has many special programs, and runs a number of special events including “Boo at the Zoo,” a Halloween themed event that runs from October 19-21, and “Snore and Roar,” which offers families an opportunity to sleep overnight at the zoo.

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ZooLights: A Lot Going on Among the Animals