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July 7, 2014

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Getting closer to nature with city zoo sleepover

VISITORS will be able to have “a sleepover” in Shanghai Zoo from next year, viewing nocturnal creatures and being woken by the dawn chorus.

This is an extension of the “Magic Night Tour” at the Changning District zoo, running every weekend evening this month.

The new initiative, under which visitors will camp out for the night at the zoo, is currently being trialled, initially limited to zoo staff and animal protection association members.

“The evening tour has been running for years, and we are now working on the night camping program,” a spokesperson for the zoo said.

Shanghai Zoo said on its current evening tours it seeks to disturb the animals as little as possible, and this will equally apply to overnight stays.

Weak lights are used for night excursions and zoo staff and volunteers accompany visitors to ensure they don’t startle the residents.

Under the first trial last month, participants camped on the zoo lawn following a night tour when they saw nocturnal mammals such as wolves, raccoon dogs and bats as well as fireflies and other insects.

Zoo officials said they favor overnight camping as it can help children learn more about the animals, and then have the bonus of waking to the sound of birds.

Extra measures are being taken to ensure the safety of sleepover visitors, said the zoo.

“The safety of visitors is the most important concern and we will upgrade measures before starting the camping initiative,” said Pan Xiuwen, an official with the zoo.

The scheme will probably run next July, she said.

“There are almost no fireflies in August and it’s too hot to stay outdoors at that time,” Pan added.

There looks certain to be big uptake for overnight stays as demand already exceeds supply for the evening tours which have been offered for 10 years.

These are popular among families and companies organizing team-building events. About 40 people took part on last Friday’s tour.

The “Magic Night Tour” begins when it’s still day — at 3pm — with talks on the creatures to be encountered. The walk itself lasts about 90 minutes, ending at around 9pm.

The “Magic Night Tour” aims to inspire children’s love of nature and offers a fun experience, said zoo officials.

Shanghai Botanical Garden also hosts summer evening tours to view fireflies. More than 300 packages sold out in five minutes this year.

Due to the popularity of such events, there have been calls for all-night opening for viewing at Shanghai Zoo and the garden.

But the zoo and garden and the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau say facilities such as lighting make this impractical.


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