<I>Lighting up the night</I><BR>Phoenix ZooLights fills visitors with delight

The new animatronic Jengo The Talking Giraffe, left, catches the attention of all the children entering ZooLights and talks to them.

The Dancing Trees are a perennial favorite, featuring a choreographed light and music display. New this year are the tutu-clad orangutans that dance up and down to Christmas songs such as "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" and "Carol of the Bells". Parents join their children in singing along to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

The Arizona Trail, home to many of the state's native animals, is probably the most relaxing. It's off to the side and features classical music alongside the lighted saguaro cacti, scorpion, bighorn sheep, bunnies and shy mountain lion. A gigantic dragon shoots flames from its mouth in the distant background.

Visitors often wonder what all the real animals think of the ZooLights. Most of them aren't visible to night visitors.

"While we are a zoo, we're open all day and all creatures need their sleep," Yamamori said.

While some are kept away from all the bustle, this year for the first time, the zoo used ambient red lights in some animal enclosures such as the macaw cage and new Monkey Village so visitors can see them at night.

Zookeepers are reporting that the lights aren't bothering those animals, Yamamori was happy to relate.

After all, some are into the nightlife on a year-round basis.

Contact the reporter at jdodder@prescottaz.com