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Zoo New York holding Winter Wonderlights event every Friday and Saturday in December

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Zoo New York in Thompson Park was back open to visitors this weekend for its fourth annual Winter Wonderlights.

The event started in 2020.

Lights could be seen all over the zoo, illuminating animal exhibits and walkways. Santa and Mrs. Claus were in attendance.

Ryan A. Ferris, director of guest experience for Zoo New York, said that even though the zoo has not been open it wanted to keep the tradition alive.

“With a group of a bunch of volunteers coming out, putting up lights, and then helping run this we were able to actually to put this on for the community,” he said.

There were eight volunteers and another six people on the Guest Experience Committee for the zoo that helped set up and make Winter Wonderlights a possibility.

Ferris said getting help from the volunteers “says a lot” because some of those people lost their jobs when the zoo closed.

“But they care so much about the zoo that they wanted to be here to help and actually move the zoo along with the fundraiser for it,” he said. “Them volunteering their time to come, man, says a lot not just about them, but about this zoo too.”

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Zoo’s holiday lights event set for December

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Despite its financial issues, Zoo New York in Thompson Park is bringing back a holiday tradition this season.

The zoo will be lit up for the holiday season with displays of lights and decorations throughout the zoo.

Starting Friday night, Winter Wonderlights will run Fridays and Saturdays through December. The show runs from 5 to 8 p.m.

Admission is $7, but members can get in for free. The zoo also is looking for donations.

Thanking “the abundance of community support,” interim zoo Director Mark D. Irwin said the zoo is able to bring back the holiday favorite with the help of volunteers, board members and employees.

He also thanked the City Council for contributing a $60,000 financial boost to stabilize the zoo during the winter.

“We’re going to try our very best to have a wonderful holiday season,” Irwin said.

The zoo announced in October that it was closing with no reopening date set because of continuing financial issues.

Zoo officials have said the zoo’s business model has to change or the facility will close.

A public survey has been conducted to determine community support. The results, which are expected to be positive, will soon be released.

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Zoo asks city of Watertown for more financial help

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The operators of Zoo New York are asking the city for $60,000 in more funding as the facility goes through financial troubles that could lead to the zoo’s permanent closure.

City Council will decide on Monday night whether to provide another $60,000 to help the zoo get through its current financial troubles.

Last week, two businesses offered the zoo a $60,000 loan. Developer Jake Johnson and the Reddick family, who owns Con Tech Building Systems came forward with their offer for the loan.

But the Thompson Park Conservancy, Inc., which runs Zoo New York, would not have to pay back the money to the city, Lawrence J. Sorel, the zoo’s executive director, said.

“This makes more financial sense,” he said, stressing he’s grateful for the offer from the two businessmen. “It would essentially be a grant from the city.”

Zoo officials have talked to Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and council members about their funding request, he said.

Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said Sunday that she’s leaning in favor of the funding request.

“I just have some questions,” she said.

The $60,000 would cover cash flow until a more permanent financing solution can be put in place if the zoo reopens next spring.

A resolution for the funding has been put on the agenda for Monday night’s council meeting.

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One of the World’s Rarest Animals is Born – Zoo Conservationists Bolster Population of Only Hundreds Left in Wild

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A Philippine spotted deer, one of the world’s rarest animals, has been born to the delight of conservationists at Chester Zoo in England.

The adorable fawn was born in September weighing 4.4 pounds (2kg).
Now standing 12 inches tall (30cm), he has taken his first steps outdoors in their new enclosure alongside his doting parents—Nova and Cosmos.

As part of a special breeding program, the birth is said to provide a much-needed boost to an ultra-rare species classified as ‘highly endangered’ in the wild.

The tiny new arrival is part of conservation efforts between zoos in Europe, set up at the request of the Philippine government to ensure future survival of the species.

Zookeepers have decided to name him after the constellation of stars, Hercules.

“After eagerly waiting 240 days for his arrival, it was a huge relief when we saw a little bundle of fur curled up next to mum Nova one morning,” said Emma Evison, team manager at the zoo.

“She’s a great mum and has been doing everything perfectly so far – feeding him every few hours and keeping him right by her side.”

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Boo at the Zoo fundraiser kicks off, continues next weekend

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WATERTOWN — The drive through Thompson Park on Saturday made for the perfect Northern New York fall setting as boys and girls dressed as superheroes, cartoon characters, bumblebees and more made their way to Zoo New York for the annual Boo at the Zoo event.

“We come every year,” Stephanie Chouinard of Glen Park said. “It’s worth the money. The kids love to experience the animals and trick-or-treating.”

A young man with Ms. Chouinard expressed his love of the event, especially seeing the “kitties.”

The Chouinard family joined several hundred attendees on day one of the four-day event. Many visited the zoo to see bears, wolves, otters, elk, and barnyard favorites.

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At crossroads, Zoo New York needs community support

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In 1992, the Thompson Park Zoo and Conservancy stepped up to save the zoo from closing.

Now 21 years later, the conservancy is asking for the community’s support to determine whether Zoo New York should continue to stay open.

On Wednesday, zoo officials brought about 20 community and business leaders together to drum up support for the facility at a critical time in its history.

They met in one of the zoo program classrooms at Jefferson Community College to talk about Zoo New York’s future and what needs to be done to keep the facility in Thompson Park open.

“To lose the zoo, it would be disastrous for the community,” said Alfred L. Gianfagna, a retired Watertown pediatrician who led efforts to keep the zoo open in 1992. “We need to do everything we can to save it.”

The zoo is at a crossroads. With continuing financial problems, the way that the zoo operates must change or it’s time to turn the facility back to the city, conservancy board chair Mark Irwin said.

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Zoo acquires van for educational programs

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After six years, the Zoo Mobile is back on the road.

Zoo New York, located in Thompson Park, now has a used Ford Transport — adorned with flashy graphics — to transport and show off zoo animals to area schools and at events.

The zoo hasn’t had a Zoo Mobile since around 2017, said Lawrence J. Sorel, the zoo’s executive director.

“We’ve had to use staff and personal vehicles,” he said.

Zoo animals are also being taken to the vet in the van, and zoo employees can use it to pick up supplies.

AmeriCU Credit Union is sponsoring the Zoo Mobile to cover its costs, Sorel said. The credit union is paying for the vehicle.

It allows the zoo’s education department to go out in the community several times a week, he said.

“This gives us an actual Zoo Mobile to do this,” he said.

AmeriCU supports the nonprofit’s commitment to provide conservation, family-oriented programs and education to the public about wildlife, according to a press release.

The Zoo Mobile ensures the safe and humane transportation of animals to various locations, allowing them to engage with communities while maintaining their well-being.

“The Zoo Mobile will feature a carefully curated selection of captivating animals, engaging educational programs, and interactive experiences suitable for all ages,” said Tim Greening, the zoo’s director of marketing and development.

The used vehicle was purchased from Waite Toyota in the town of Watertown. The auto dealership was able to find the perfect vehicle for the zoo, Sorel said.

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‘World’s Loneliest Lion’ Returns to Africa After Years Alone in Zoo–WATCH His First Steps

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The ‘world’s loneliest lion’ has returned to his natural habitat after he was abandoned in a private zoo in Armenia for five years.

15-year-old lion Ruben was part of a pride living in the now-closed zoo, but while all the other lions were relocated, Ruben was left behind in a tiny concrete cell for five long years.

Now, Ruben has made a 5,200-mile journey to South Africa where he took his first steps out of his travel crate into the home of his ancestors.

The epic journey was organized by Animals Defenders International (ADI) and Qatar Airways Cargo.

Ruben is now being rehabilitated at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in Free State, South Africa.

“Lions are the most sociable of the big cats, living in family prides in the wild,” said ADI President Jan Creamer. “Seeing him walk on grass for the first time, hearing the voices of his own kind, with the African sun on his back, brought us all to tears.”

At first, Ruben’s legs were wobbling due to malnutrition and a “lifetime of no exercise.”

However, Ruben’s resilience has stunned everyone at the sanctuary. He strode from his travel crate and followed a trail of sausages to a giant catnip punchbag—his first toy—and immediately started playing with it.

After not hearing other lions for years, Ruben has already started to get his roar back, his morning calls getting steadily louder as he regains his confidence.

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Sci-Tech Center opens temporary home in Thompson Park zoo

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Six months after it was closed by a flooded basement, the Sci-Tech Center has a temporary place to call home.

On Thursday, the Sci-Tech Center opened a display in the Conservation Center at Zoo New York in Thompson Park.

“We’re keeping our programs going as we continue to work on getting back open,” Sci-Tech executive director Stephen A. Karon said.

The displays teach science through each of the five senses, he said.

Lawrence Sorel, Zoo New York executive director, said he is happy to help out a fellow science community organization.

Work continues on making repairs to reopen the Sci-Tech Center at 154 Stone St. after a broken pipe left 3 feet of water in its basement on Jan. 5, Karon said.

Recently, the center got its electrical power back, but it will be a while before all the repairs can be made.

Work on fixing the heating, communication, water and mechanical systems are now underway.

Karon does not know when the center can welcome guests once again.

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Zoo New York to celebrate wolverine’s life on Valentine’s Day

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The community is celebrating Zoo New York’s wolverine’s birthday one last time on Valentine’s Day.

The 16-year-old wolverine, Valentine, died three weeks ago. She shared her birthday with Valentine’s Day.

The zoo is asking that the community send Valentine’s Day cards to honor one of its most popular animals on Tuesday.

Before she died, zoo keepers had noticed that Valentine, or Val, was acting differently and not eating her normal amount of food, so they brought her to the veterinarian’s office for a checkup.

It was discovered that she had inoperable cancer. She was euthanized to avoid a long, painful death, said Larry Sorrel, the zoo’s executive director.

But the zoo wants to make sure the wolverine is remembered for her 14 years at the zoo.

“She was very popular,” Mr. Sorrel said.

In the past, the zoo celebrated Val’s birthday on Valentine’s Day.

People can make Valentine cards on the zoo’s website. Zoo New York also is accepting donations in the wolverine’s name for the zoo’s animal wellness fund.

“We’re saddened by her death,” Mr. Sorrel said.

Val, only one wolverine that had been living in a zoo in the country, came to the zoo when she was two years old in 2008. She was delivered by a plane in Syracuse and was described as having an inquisitive personality.

According to Mr. Sorrel, wolverines have an average lifespan of seven to 12 years in the wild. Val would have turned 17 on Valentine’s Day.

“Unlike many other wolverines, she did take time to figure out her feeding puzzles instead of just ripping them to shreds, said Jen Graham, Val’s lead zoo keeper. “Valentine quickly ate up any meal made with venison.”

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