Weekly Feature

2015-09-02 / Lifestyles

Buffalo Zoo Snooze

Experience wildlife before shuteye
by ANNA WALTERS Reporter

ANNA WALTERS ANNA WALTERS Imagine waking up to the roar of lions and tigers. The sound is not coming from a recorded alarm — it’s the real deal.

Groups of 20 or more can sign up for an educational program at the Buffalo Zoo, called Zoo Snooze.

Explorers in the program have the chance to tour the zoo after the sun goes down, camp out in the Ecostation exhibit, surrounded by live animals, and take part in activities and games.

“And a lot of times, the animals are a lot more active at night, especially because there’s no one yelling,” said Lisa Thibault, the zoo’s onsite programs specialist. “There’s not a lot of noise. They’re less shy. It’s a really nice time to be able to see the animals.”

Thibault noted that the Ecostation’s design is based on a research station, and it looks as though you’re sleeping under a big tent.

A female Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger, eats a pumpkin treat at the Buffalo Zoo. A female Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger, eats a pumpkin treat at the Buffalo Zoo. There are also lanterns hanging from the ceiling in addition to maps that can teach a participant about being a research scientist. The Ecostation is located between the lion and tiger exhibits at the zoo.

Participants can choose their Zoo Snooze experience, as there are multiple themes to pick from, including “Ecostation Exploration,” “Rainforest Immersion,” “You Run The Zoo” and “Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing Animals.”

Additionally, a snooze will be available in the fall for Girl Scout Cadettes. Scouts will be able to earn their Night Owl badge while spending the night at the zoo.

Zoo Snoozes are held from 6 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. the following morning, starting Friday and Saturday nights, at 300 Parkside Ave. in Buffalo. Most of the programs are available year round.

Carol Dillenburg, a Buffalo Zoo docent, holds the late Silo, a barn owl, in front of children. Carol Dillenburg, a Buffalo Zoo docent, holds the late Silo, a barn owl, in front of children. According to Thibault, the night will typically begin with a presentation and the planned activities, and will be followed by a night tour after the zoo is closed.

When the participants return, they settle down, watch a movie and have snacks. Thibault noted that the group can order a pizza.

A continental breakfast is provided in the morning, and there is a morning tour around 8 a.m. before the zoo opens.

Thibault said one of the coolest night activities is an enrichment item or food project the group creates for one of the big zoo animals, such as elephants, rainforest animals, hyenas or sea lions.

“During their morning tour, they actually get to see the keeper give that food item to the animals.”

She gave an example of sandwiches that are stuffed with rawhide strips and dog food in the middle for the hyenas. For elephants, Thibault said they might fill a box with a variety of hay, fruits and vegetables.

“I’ve been told elephants are like children; they can have the trail mix and gummies, all that fun stuff,” she added.

Thibault noted that the zoo has one staff member who specifically does overnights, and their docents, who are volunteers, help out.

“We always have two to four docents per group,” she said.

“I think the educational portion is very important to get children to learn to respect nature around them,” she said.

Thibault added that if children are taught early on, they are more likely to carry this respect into adulthood.

“We’ve got tie-ins to conservation in all our programs.”

She gave an example of teaching children why they should recycle during the rainforest-theme Zoo Snooze.

Participants get to interact with the zoo’s educational animals up close, such as rabbits, snakes, lizards and turtles.

Thibault noted that what’s great about having live animals is being able to witness a child’s spark of excitement.

“Because they’re like oh, wow, it’s so cool. I care about this animal because I got to pet him or I got to meet him up close.

“Or even, I care about this animal because I got to make him a snack, and I know that he loved that snack, for the enrichment items that they do. It kind of makes a connection with them and the animals.”

The minimum group requirement for the snooze is 20 people, including children and adult chaperones. It is intended for all ages.

Snoozers should bring the following items:

Weather-appropriate clothing and a change of clothing for day two

Sleeping bag (air mattresses and cots are not permitted)

Toothbrush and toothpaste


Additional snack if needed

The Zoo Snooze costs $30 per participant and $20 per chaperone. A $100 deposit is due 10 days from the time of booking.

To register for the program, call 995-6128 for available dates. For more information, visit www.buffalozoo.org.

email: awalters@beenews.com

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