The Illumination for Conservation Lantern Festival is open at Binghamton's Ross Park Zoo and is being described as nothing short as "breathtaking."

Zoo Executive Director Phillip Ginter told Town Square Binghamton's weekly local public affairs program, Southern Tier Close Up the display of over 40 nature-themed luminaries throughout the Southside zoo will be the biggest fund-raising event this year and it also benefits several conservation groups.

Ginter says the lanterns are not those little globe-shaped paper things most of us are used to, but giant animals, plants, birds and insects.  Imagine this: Illuminated butterflies that actually flap their wings!

Ross Park Zoo Illumination for Conservation display photo
Ross Park Zoo Illumination for Conservation display photo

The zoo director says the sculptures are almost as impressive during the day where they line all the shaded forest paths.  Visitors to the zoo during the day also have a chance to purchase discounted admission to take in the lanterns in all their glory at night.

While there aren't any spotlights on the residents at the zoo and the focus is on the lantern festival, the animals, of course, aren't going anywhere and you may catch a glimpse of a wolf, sand cat or Red Panda as you pass through the amazing illuminated nightscape.

Illumination for Conservation supports like the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, Red Panda Network and the American Wolf Foundation.

Meanwhile, Ginter says there are other exciting developments at America's fifth oldest zoo as it becomes a real community resource and partner.  The zoo is looking for diverse groups, non-profits and businesses that are interested in using facilities like pavilions or even the 300-seat amphitheater.  The American Civic Association is one of the latest groups to take advantage of the venue facilities and will be holding the annual ACA Garlic Festival at the zoo this year.

Courtesy Ross Park Zoo
Courtesy Ross Park Zoo

Of course, the primary focus of Ross Park Zoo is animal conservation and education. Ginter says they are excitedly awaiting the arrival of some extremely endangered Red Wolves with the hopes of starting a Species Survival breeding program with an ultimate goal of being able to release some of the rare animals back into their native habitat.

Southern Tier Close Up is heard weekly on Town Square Binghamton radio stations and can be found on the WNBF podcast.

For information about Illumination for Conservation, Ross Park Zoo, admission and membership, go to   

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