Cool summer evenings in Tucson will soon receive an infusion of roars, growls, squawks and a medley of other animal sounds at the Reid Park Zoo, which kicks off its annual Summer Safari Nights this Friday. A weekly shindig, the animal attractions at the zoo will be joined by live musical performances, special dining menus and discounts at the gift shop.
Every Friday will feature a different theme, and the zoo has chosen its two resident bear populations, the Andean and grizzlies, as its representatives of the safari’s first night: The Bear Necessities.
The zoo’s two grizzlies, Ronan and Finley, were rescued from Yellowstone National Park four years ago, when the siblings were roughly 18 months old. As cubs the two bears were taught several problem-causing and dangerous behaviors by their mother, and the decision was made to relocate the duo.
Ronan and Finley (now well-trained) live in Grizzly Crossing at the zoo, which was originally built to house the polar bear population. With some modifications, however, the furred siblings have found a new home and a new life.
“These aren’t your average bears, but they do like picnic baskets,” joked zookeeper Chelsea Barber.
The zoo’s Andean bears, Worf and Lucy, have been a part of the Reid Park family since 1996, and have long entertained Tucsonans and visitors alike with their penchant for climbing trees. Also known as “spectacled bears” for the white ring of fur around their eyes, Worf and Lucy have had two cubs of their own over the years, which have been sent to other zoos to help propagate the vulnerable species.
Guests to Reid Park can bring a picnic blanket of their own to enjoy a meal from the zoo kitchens, relax on the zoo grounds, meet staff and have questions answered. The theme will change every week, beginning May 19 until the safari ends on Aug. 4, and will include “Large & In Charge” with the elephants and white rhinos, “Primate Power,” “Caring for Carnivores” and more.
While some of the animals may choose to interact with the public, animals are given access to their night-houses, and some may be off-exhibit.
Tickets for Summer Safari Nights run $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for children between two and 14 years old. Members receive a $2 discount on all rates, and a member’s pass is available to cover entrance each week. Passes cost $25 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets can be purchased online, and more information on the summer-long event is available online at reidparkzoo.org.