Reston, VA

Waffles the Giraffe and a young visitor/Credit: Roer's Zoofari

Roer’s Zoofari (formerly The Reston Zoo) is holding a fall festival with a twist this weekend and next.

Oct. 22-23 and Oct. 29-30 are Roer’s Giraffe-Tober Fest. For a $20 admission, visitors can meet Roer’s newest animal, Waffles the giraffe, and participate in some fall farm fun, including:

  • Pick-Your-Own Pumpkin Patch
  • Kids Zone w/Bounce House
  • Giraffe Feeding
  • Safari Wagon Ride
  • Scarecrow Competition
  • Carnival Games

Giraffe-Tober Fest’s Kids Zone is sponsored by the Russian School of Mathematics. Part of the proceeds will go to giraffe conservation efforts.

Roer’s is also holding a trick-or-treat event Oct. 29 to 31.

Kids can come “enjoy a very-not-scary Halloween at the zoo” from 5 to 7 p.m. The bounce house will be open, and there will be games and trick-or-treating. Adults and kids under 2: Free; $10 for kids over age 2. Half price for season pass holders.

Roer’s Zoofari, which was purchased and renamed in March, is located at 1228 Hunter Mill Road.

Purchase advance tickets to Giraffe-Tober Fest online.

Photo: Waffles the Giraffe and a young visitor/Credit: Roer’s Zoofari

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Sounds of the Savanna/Arbordale PublishingReston author Terry Catasus Jennings takes science and turns it into relatable stories that children can understand.

Her latest book, Sounds of the Savanna (Arbordale Publishing) came out last week. In it, Jennings (and illustrator Phyllis Saroff) explains how animals communicate — through sound. The mighty lion of the savanna roars, a lioness answers, the wildebeests respond and the day springs into action as a chain of sounds brings the African plains to life until the quiet night returns.

Jennings will hold a reading and book signing at the Reston Zoo Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jennings, a 38-year Reston resident who has worked for the Smithsonian Institution, has also written books on Mount St. Helen’s and the women’s movement. The Mount St. Helen’s book, Gopher to the Rescue: A Volcano Recovery Story was honored with the National Science Teachers’ Outstanding Science Trade Book award in 2013.

She says she finds kids are very interested in science and history if the concepts are at a level they can understand.

“If you present it in an engaging way, it leaves them with an understanding that science is great — it is part of everything in our lives,” she said. “I think translating it to young readers is my strong suit.”

Jennings said she is particularly interested in physics, which she majored in in college, and hopes to pen books about electricity and magnets.

Jennings will have additional book signing events at Reston’s Used Book Shop on Nov. 7 and at The Baltimore Zoo on Nov. 8.  She will also participate in George Mason University’s Fall for the Book on Oct. 3.

Learn more about Jennings on her website and on her blog for kids, KC’s Wild Facts.


Animals at Reston Zoo/TripAdvisorReston Zoo has hired a new director, the zoo’s CEO and Corporate Director announced.

Mario Lawrence, formerly the curator and assistant director of Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo in Thurmont, Md., took over the Reston job in June, CEO Eric Mogensen announced.

Mogensen said Lawrence’s “expertise in the overall operation of Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, including daily administration of all departments, and his enthusiasm to move our organization forward translates into exciting changes for the Zoo and our community.”

At Catoctin, Lawrence was responsible for managing all aspects of operations, including supervising staff, animal care functions, guest relations, special events, directing special fundraising initiatives and representing Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo at many service organizations.

He has also worked for Wild Adventures Theme Parks in Valdosta, Ga., Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach, S.C, and the Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, Va.

Reston Zoo has been in the news lately because of USDA complaints against the Gulf Breeze Zoo, a Mogensen-owned zoo in Florida. Eric Mogensen responded to those charges in a Reston Now Op Ed last week.


Reston Zoo/Credit: Reston ZooThis is an op-ed by Eric Mogensen, CEO and Corporate Director of the Reston Zoo. It does not represent the opinion of Reston Now.

There continue to be misperceptions about Reston Zoo and past events. The recent report of USDA filing charges against us, all of which are being refuted, has made it an appropriate time to clarify.

Meghan Mogensen was an employee of the zoo in 2012. She has never been an owner of any of the facilities, as has been repeatedly listed incorrectly. She was the Zoo Director and not involved with daily animal care; that person was the Animal Curator. The curator was directly involved with both the [euthanized] wallaby and the [injured] spider monkey. She was under company investigation for the spider monkey when the wallaby was injured. This was not made public. Corroborating materials will be presented in court. Meghan’s role begins and ends with the wallaby. All other issues for which Reston Zoo has been cited concern other employees.

As reported, Meghan was charged with animal cruelty. Her intent was to ease the suffering of a gravely injured animal as quickly as possible because her curator failed to do her job. The intent was admirable, the process wrong. However, the official necropsy report showed no signs of drowning, i.e. the animal was already deceased. Meghan is a vocal animal rights advocate when it comes to their care; her intent was never to cause any suffering. There was no cruel intent. This is a woman who hand-reared porcupines and pot-belly pigs in our house when she was a girl; a parrot from the day it hatched; helped raise multiple baby kangaroos on bottles.

There have been mistakes made at the zoo, but they were made by animal staff which sincerely cared for their animals, and were inadvertent. As in every zoo in this country, including our very well respected National Zoo, animals die through mistakes and keeper error. No animal cruelty is involved; there is no vicious intent.

Our staff loves their animals; most [staffers] young and want to save the world. For many, this is their first paying  job out of college. It’s hard, gritty and many times Read More


Reston Zoo/Credit: Reston ZooThe owner of the Reston Zoo and several other roadside zoos has spoken out on recent allegations that animals at several of his facilities are being mistreated.

Eric Mogensen, CEO of the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Florida (as well as Virginia Safari Park and the Reston Zoo in Virginia) said the Gulf Breeze Zoo, which has been the subject of recent Department of Agriculture allegations, was only cited for minor issues.

“All [issues] were corrected immediately,” Mogensen wrote in a letter to the community on the Gulf Breeze Zoo’s website. “We contest cited issues when we believe they are inaccurate. The zoo has no outstanding violations.”

“The staff at the Gulf Breeze Zoo cares deeply about our animals,” he added “There have been no signs of any animal abuse, and there won’t be.”

The Pensacola New Journal recently reported that Mogensen and his daughter Meghan, the Gulf Breeze Zoo director, were cited by the USDA for improper care of animals, including shooting an animal to euthanize it and giving improper veterinary care and shelter, among others.

In September 2012, Meghan Mogensen, then director of the Reston Zoo, was convicted of animal cruelty and sentenced to 30 days in jail in a Fairfax County court after she euthanized a sick wallaby by drowning him in a bucket. She later transferred to the Gulf Breeze Zoo.

There have also been recent complaints at the other Virginia zoos owned by the family.

“The staff at the Gulf Breeze Zoo cares deeply about our animals,” Mogensen wrote. “Our keepers, as well as staff in other departments, take their jobs seriously and always strive to do their best.”


Animals at Reston Zoo/TripAdvisorThe owner of the Reston Zoo, who was named in an animal cruelty complaint last week at the Florida zoo that he also owns, has a long history of controversy.

The most recent Department of Agriculture complaint is against Mogensen and his daughter Meghan, the former Reston Zoo director. Meghan Mogensen was convicted in Fairfax County on an animal cruelty charge after euthanizing an injured wallaby by drowning him in a bucket in in 2012. She now serves as the director at the Gulf Breeze Zoo near Pensacola.

The complaint against the Gulf Breeze Zoo, filed Friday, alleges the Mogensens shot an animal to euthanize it, failed to control and supervise animals (one of which it a child) and possessed drugs without authorization, among other issues.

The Mogensens have been under scrutiny before, at all their facilities:  Reston Zoo, the Virginia Safari Park and Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia; and at Gulf Breeze in Florida.

“It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Department of Agriculture needed 18 pages to document the abuses perpetuated at all three roadside zoos operated by Eric Mogensen and his daughter Meghan,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet said in a statement Monday.

“The USDA found that the facility was denying animals basic care to treat and prevent painful lameness, parasites, mastitis, stillbirths, and eye and skin disease. … The way to protect animals from roadside zoos is clear — steer families elsewhere.”

In May, federal regulators filed complaints against the Virginia Safari Park and Virginia Zoo, claiming a spider monkey named Jethro died after receiving improper veterinary care for frostbite, the Roanoke Times reported.

USDA officials also allege that the Virginia Safari Park failed to keep its enclosures in good repair, raising the risk of injury or escape for its golden lion tamarins. The complaint also says that in addition to the death of the Wallaby in early 2012, a porcupine named Mr. Quills died of hypothermia after being held outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures in January 2014, according to the complaint.

The owners have “on multiple occasions demonstrated a lack of concern for the welfare of the animals in their custody,” the complaint said.

Because the three facilities all are operated by the Virginia Safari Park corporation under one license, the complaint covers all three Virginia zoos owned by the Mogensen family.

Earlier this year, complaints against the Natural Bridge Zoo delayed the zoo’s spring opening. Natural Bridge Zoo officials corrected the 44 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act that were revealed on an inspection, the Roanoke Times reported.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries cited the federal agency’s findings when it decided in March to suspend the zoo’s permit to exhibit wild animals. Read More


Reston Zoo/Credit: Reston ZooThe owner and former director of the Reston Zoo — the latter convicted of animal cruelty in 2012 — is in trouble for mistreating animals at a similar facility near Pensacola, Fla.

The Department of Agriculture has filed a complaint against Gulf Breeze Zoo owner Eric Mogensen and his daughter, Meghan Mogensen, for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, the Pensacola News Journal first reported.

The complaint alleges the Mogensens shot an animal to euthanize it, failed to control and supervise animals (one of which it a child) and possessed drugs without authorization.

In September 2012, Meghan Mogensen, then 26, was convicted of animal cruelty and possession of a controlled substance in Fairfax County General District Court. Employees said Mogensen, then the director of the Reston Zoo, drowned a sick wallaby in a bucket to euthanize him earlier that year.

Mogensen, who was sentenced to 30 days in jail, then transferred to the Gulf Breeze Zoo. The Mogensens own that zoo and the Reston Zoo on Hunter Mill Road near Route 7.

The alleged violations at the Gulf Breeze Zoo include improperly euthanizing animals, including “gunshot as a means of euthanasia without any description of, [among other things], the circumstances in which gunshot could be used, the personnel authorized to perform this method of euthanasia, the training that any such personnel would be required to receive, the weapon or weapons used, or the location where such method of euthanasia would be carried out.”

Other complaints in the filing against the Gulf Breeze Zoo:

Repeated failure to handle animals as carefully as possible to prevent harm to the animals and the public. An attendant was not present when the public, including children, had contact with camels, goats, and llamas, resulting in a child being bitten by a camel, and a short-tail opossum escaped from an enclosure that was not covered. It was found dead the next day.

Repeated failure to safely handle and houseprimates. There was not sufficient distance and/or barriers to restrict the public from having contact with squirrel monkeys, tamarins, and/or marmosets.

Repeated failure to maintain animal enclosures. An enclosure housing golden-headed lion tamarins had protruding nails; an enclosure housing a Patagonian cavy had buried wire mesh with sharp ends that protruded into the enclosure; a door in an enclosure housing tigers had rusted, jagged, and sharp edges, and an enclosure housing raccoons had rusted and corroded wire as well as wood that was splintered and warped.

Failure to separate incompatible animals. Rabbits were housed in incompatible groups, resulting in newborn rabbits “being eaten, chewed upon, or otherwise injured by the other rabbits in the enclosure,” and causing the newborns to die or be euthanized due to their injuries.

Failure to provide shelter from sunlight or inclement weather to goats and sheep.

Failure to ensure that food was clean and wholesome when food for marmosets was prepared at a sink that was dirty and had dead insects and mouse droppings around the sink’s perimeter.

Photo: Reston Zoo/Credit: Reston Zoo


Piglets at Reston Zoo/Credit: Reston Zoo via FacebookThe Reston Zoo has a weekend of Easter fun for kids April 4 and 5.

Stop by the zoo, 1228 Hunter Mill Rd., for visits with the baby lambs, goats and bunnies — as well as visit with the big guy himself, the Easter Bunny. There will also be a moonbounce and other kids activities.

The main event: Easter egg hunts:

Safari Egg Hunts (ages 4-12), 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. Families will board the Zoofari Wagon for a trip out to the Safari Egg Hunt Field for this egg hunt.

Toddler Egg Hunts (3 and under), 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Youngsters will hunt for eggs at the picnic pavilion field, where stroller parking will be available.

Children are encouraged to bring their own Easter baskets for collecting eggs. Families are asked to arrive early for this popular event. Last admission will be at 3 p.m. each day of the event.

The egg hunts and other activities are free with zoo admission:

  • Adults: $12.95
  • Children (2-12): $12.95
  • Under 2: Egg Hunt Ticket $3
  • Season Pass Holders will receive $2 off per ticket

Photo: Piglets at Reston Zoo/Credit: Reston Zoo via Facebook


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