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Zoolights festival and farewell to the penguins and seabirds

Sunday, December 4th is everyones' last chance to bid bon voyage to Lincoln Park Zoo's resident penguins and seabirds

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Chicago---- Zoolights kicks off this weekend to light-up and warm the chilly "Windy City" nights. This year's festival promises to be bigger, better, and brighter than ever before, with more than 2 million twinkling bulbs!

Zoolights happens every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, through December 11. Beginning December 16, the event is offered nightly through January 1, excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Zoo hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with special Zoolights activities beginning at 5 p.m. As always, the magic of this holiday wonderland is FREE for the whole family! You can keep Jack Frost at bay with a winter warmer of traditional spiced wine, hot cider, or steamy cocoa. If the weather is truly frightful, hanging out at the cozy, Kovler Lion House with Santa himself would be most delightful.

Enjoy a chilly spin on the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel, or learn some pointers from the ice sculpter experts, while being awestruck from the shimmering light show.

The zoo's creatures are stirring as the zoo bids farewell to some old feathered friends in the Kovler Penguin-Seabird House. Visitors can stop by to wish the birds happy holidays and bon voyage before the house permanently closes to the public on Monday, December 5th.

The penguin house is closing after 30 years to make way for a new state-of-the-art animal exhibit in its place in the future. All of the birds in the exhibit have found new homes at AZA-accredited institutions throughout the United States and Canada. Two rockhopper penguins hatched at the zoo will be staying in Chicago; 3-year old Dixie and 5-year old Bryana will be moving to Chicago's "ocean on the lake," the Shedd Aquarium.

Said zoo president, Kevin Bell, "Winter is the best time to relocate these cool-weather birds, so as we celebrate the season we bid them a fond farewell. I cannot believe it has been 30 years since I oversaw the opening of the building. We are resolving to include penguins in our future as plans for new exhibits are developed in the New Year."

During the Zoolights festival, Lincoln Park Zoo invites the public to give the gift of warmth this year by participating in the second annual Zoolights winter coat drive. Last year the zoo collected more than 500 winter coat and accessory items for charities in the Chicago area. Visitors can help the zoo by bringing new or used cozy clothing to the drop boxes at Gateway Pavilion, Park Place Cafe' and the Kovler Lion House.

Author's note: I was fortunate enough to have been a zookeeper working in the Small Mammal House, which was just a stone's throw away from the construction site of the Penguin-Seabird House, 30 years ago. We keepers in the SMH were able to watch the building as it materialized day to day. I was also fortunate enough to have "cross-trained" to work in that "new" building a few times. One can go into that "house" having a less than desireable day and come out all smiles after interacting with the penguins. Those were some very fond memories. HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

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