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December 12th, 2007 WW Editorial Staff | Rogue of the Week
 

Chris Pfefferkorn

The dark side of Zoolights

     
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State-sponsored torture is really popular these days. So popular, in fact, Santa tells the Rogue Desk the feds are giving new blackout goggles and sound-proof earmuffs to their favorite “high-value” terrorists this Christmas.

The Oregon Zoo? It’s not so into sensory deprivation. The zoo prefers sensory overload for its detainees.

For five weeks, from Thanksgiving until just after Christmas, the Oregon Zoo hosts Zoolights, an after-dark extravaganza that decorates the zoo with almost a million twinkling Christmas lights and attracts an exotic species—known as the $250 Maclaren MX3 baby buggy—in numbers approaching the species’ summertime peak.

The popular event has been around for nearly two decades. But this year’s Zoolights earns Chris Pfefferkorn , the zoo’s curator, a nonrefundable ticket to Roguedom—for putting visitors ahead of the animals that had been allowed to sleep undisturbed during previous Zoolights. For the first time ever during Zoolights, Pfefferkorn OK’d the opening of an extra portion of the primate exhibit in order to give visitors one more indoor activity and a chance to see howler monkeys and orangutans at night.

So what’s the big deal? Let’s just say you would have enormous sympathy for the animals if your neighbor had a Christmas party every night for five weeks with loud music and screaming children. The opening of the primate exhibit is particularly irksome to some humans.

“This is aggravating to me and a number of keepers,” says Phil Prewett, a late-night relief worker at the zoo. “The zoo sets the bar high. They claim animal care is No. 1. But I don’t believe they’re living up to that claim.”

Pfefferkorn’s says the zoo is monitoring the animals’ well being. “If at any time we feel this is detrimental to the animals, we’ll stop doing what we’re doing,” he says.

 
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