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Off the Leash Off the Leash

Zoos leap into the holiday spirit

Twinkling lights, romance and ... gingerbread habitats?

By Vetstreet Dec 11, 2012 3:51PM

By Shayna Meliker

’Tis the season for gifts, Christmas lights and winter wonderlands — and not just for us humans! Zoo and aquarium animals across the country are proving that you don’t have to be a human (or a reindeer) to get into the holiday spirit.

So if gingerbread houses and cheerful music unwrap your holiday joy, check out this roundup of our favorite zoo and aquarium holiday events.

Photo: Mike Aguilera, SeaWorld San Diego // Kriss Kringle visits with a reindeer at Santa's Cottage at SeaWorld.Photo: Mike Aguilera, SeaWorld San Diego // Kriss Kringle visits with a reindeer at Santa's Cottage at SeaWorld.

More than 500,000 environmentally friendly lights brighten up the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., this month. And they’ll create the perfect fairy-tale backdrop for the ZooLights Date Night on Friday, Dec. 14. While enjoying Champagne and sweets, lovebird visitors get to learn about courtship and breeding behaviors in certain species.

Photo: Elise Bernardoni, Smithsonian National Zoo // An entry in this year's Gin-Grr-Bread Habitat Competition.Photo: Elise Bernardoni, Smithsonian National Zoo // An entry in this year's Gin-Grr-Bread Habitat Competition.

The National Zoo also hosted its annual Gin-Grr-Bread Habitat Competition, which invited participants to create edible habitats celebrating the zoo’s new American Trail exhibit.

Celebrate Christmas in California

It probably won’t get too chilly in San Diego this winter, but that has never stopped all the SeaWorld creatures from celebrating the December holidays. An otter and a troop of sea lions star in a holiday comedy called Clyde and Seamore Save Christmas. And you can head on over to Santa’s reindeer corral (pictured above) to visit with the animals — and even Kriss Kringle himself.

Remembering species past

Now in its 22nd year, the Denver Zoo’s Zoo Lights event has revamped its beloved train ride with a new theme. The ride, now called Yesterday's Zoo Train Experience, teaches kids about extinct species in the hopes that they’ll support conservation of the species we still have.

Photo: Denver Zoo // The Denver Zoo's beloved Zoo Lights event has been around for 22 years.Photo: Denver Zoo // The Denver Zoo's beloved Zoo Lights event has been around for 22 years.

Other holiday sights include the Sea of Lights (a light display of seahorses, whales and a gigantic octopus) and animal ice sculptures created by power tool-wielding Santa’s helpers.

Animals love holiday presents, too

It’s the most important meal of the day, so why not share it with Santa and your favorite critters? The Palm Beach Zoo will host Breakfast With Santa this weekend (Dec. 15 and 16) and next weekend (Dec. 22 and 23). During this season of giving, the zoo is asking visitors to donate enrichment toys for many of its species, from howler monkeys to New Guinea Singing Dogs. These gifts keep the animals healthy (in both mind and body) year-round. And the best part is that you can go to the zoo and watch the animals tear into their new toys — just like you’ll be doing on Christmas morning!

Bing: Holiday pet photos.

More from Vetstreet:
10 hilarious awkward family holiday pet photos
What is the secret of the white house holiday decorations? Bo knows
Video: Chimp and 6-month-old baby connect at zoo
Great products for dogs: A holiday gift guide
Is it OK to give a pet as a gift over the holidays?

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