Reston, VA
Roer’s Zoofari (Photo via Roer’s/Facebook)

Roer’s Zoofari has reopened after a fire broke out that killed two beloved giraffes earlier this month.

The zoo at 1228 Hunter Mill Road started welcoming visitors again for walk and drive-through visits on Monday (March 15), according to their Facebook, a week after a fatal barn fire left giraffes Waffles and Belagin dead.

The zoo has posted a remembrance on the website for the two animals.

“Waffles has been the heart of Roer’s Zoofari for 5 years. As we grieve we can look back at his legacy he leaves behind,” it reads in part. “Rest in peace Waffles, you will never be forgotten.”

For Belgian, it notes that he was recently brought to the zoo as a companion for Waffles.

“Tragically his time here was cut short. But in his few weeks at Roer’s Zoofari, he uplifted the spirits of visitors and staff,” the remembrance says. “He helped make Waffles’ last days an absolute joy as they played in the sun.”

Areas, including the barn, remain blocked off as an investigation is still ongoing, zoo owner Vanessa Roer writes Reston Now in an email.

At 5:30 p.m. on March 8, zoo staff was contacted by Fairfax County fire dispatch, according to a statement on the zoo’s website.

Staff arrived and were able to rescue about 20 other animals. They could not reach the giraffes, who were trapped in their stalls in the barn.

The giraffes likely died of smoke inhalation, the statement says.

While no cause has yet to be officially determined, staff believe the fire resulted from a heater that was being used to keep animals warm overnight in the barn during cold temperatures.

About a third of the barn was destroyed.

Additionally, in recent days, a petition has been circulating to shut down the zoo. Currently, there’s about 550 signatures.

It cites the alleged mistreatment of animals and violation of the Animal Welfare Act as reasons. No evidence of such claims is offered.

There have been several notable incidents and controversies over the last decade at the zoo, many of which occurred prior to the current ownership taking over in 2016.

For decades, the zoo near Lake Fairfax was known as “Reston Zoo” but it was sold to Vanessa and Jacob Roer after several high-profile animal cruelty charges. This includes the zoo’s previous director pleaded guilty of drowning an injured wallaby.

Other incidents include improper care provided to a spider monkey and exposing warm-weathered porcupines to cold temperatures.

At the time, Reston Zoo ownership chalked it up to mistakes, keeper error, and bad process.

Reston Now did send the petition to current zoo staff for comment but has yet to hear back as of publication.

Photo via Roer’s/Facebook

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Staff at Roer’s Zoofari in Reston say they’re devastated after a barn fire killed the family-run zoo’s only two giraffes on Monday.

Although the blaze was brought under control, Waffles, a seven-year-old giraffe, and his companion, a giraffe that zoo owner Vanessa Roer acquired two weeks ago, were killed in the fire.

Staff at the zoo recently created a memorial outside the entrance of the zoo. People have been leaving flowers and balloons in memory of Waffles, a zoo-goer-favorite. 

According to Roer, 20 other animals were rescued after the blaze destroyed nearly one-third of the barn.

‘Waffles was a favorite with our visitors and our team,’ Roer said. ‘We are heartbroken.’

A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department told Reston Now that an investigation on the cause of the fire and the extent of damages is underway.

Preliminarily, staff believe that the fire may have been caused by a heater used to keep animals warm in the barn overnight.

The zoo is closed until Friday.

Three macaws were taken to Leesburg Wild Animal Park Monday night after the zoo’s veterinarian ruled out any signs of smoke inhalation. All other animals were relocated inside the zoo.

The current owners took over the zoo, which was formerly known as Reston Zoo, in 2016. The former zoo’s director pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges.

Photo via Vanessa Roer

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(Updated at 9:40 p.m.) A barn fire at Roer’s Zoofari has left two giraffes dead.

The fire was first reported at the private zoo at 1228 Hunter Mill Road around 6 p.m. In a photo posted by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, smoke could be seen rising from the roof of the two story building.

Later, after the blaze was brought under control, the fire department announced that two giraffes were found deceased. No other animals were reported hurt.

The zoo had a popular, seven-year-old giraffe named Waffles, who children could feed with their bare hands. It was Waffles and his companion that died in the fire, the zoo confirmed Monday night in a statement posted on social media.

Unfortunately, we have very sad news to share.

Tonight the Roer’s Zoofari staff and family are devastated following a barn fire that claimed the life of our beloved giraffe, “Waffles” and his new giraffe companion yet to be named.

Zoofari owner, Vanessa Roer, received the call at 5:30 PM from Fairfax County dispatch that the barn where the giraffes was housed in caught fire. Staff and the zoo’s veterinarian arrived within minutes to help rescue and care for approximately 20 other animals housed in the same area. We are grateful that no staff members or other Zoofari animals were injured or lost.

Grief counselors are being made available for staff, who are devastated by this tragedy and who cared deeply for these members of the Zoofari family.

Please note that Zoofari will be closed until further notice. Thank you for all of your support and condolences to our zoo family during this time.

Thank you to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department for responding so quickly.

Investigators are now on scene, trying to determine how the fire started.

Roer’s Zoofari, located near Lake Fairfax Park, was formerly known as Reston Zoo before its current owners took over in 2016. The new ownership followed a controversy in which the former zoo director pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges.

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The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially rough for Roer’s Zoofari, a local family-owned zoo and safari, that is temporarily closed.

With no foot traffic due to stay-at-home orders, zoo staff work in tight shifts to care for animals. Some take walks with animal care staff where children during field trips and other guests would have walked to enjoy the zoo’s cheetah, zebra, water buffalo, and other animals.

Owner and CEO Vanessa Roer says the last eight weeks have been an emotional roller coaster.

Just as COVID-19 led to a local standstill, the zoo had little to bank on in the months where it typically sees visitation pick up due to birthday parties, field trips and warming temperatures.

“Most days we keep our chins up, but every so often, we lock ourselves in the walk-in cooler and scream and cry in frustration. Then we go outside and kiss our giraffe, hug a baby goat and step forward — one step at a time.”

The zoo turned to crowdfunding when it became clear that it would take time for funding from the Small Business Administration to cash in. Typically, the zoo does not make enough revenue to cover off-season costs from November through the end of February.

“We plan for four months of little income, but we never saw months five and six with zero income,” Roer said.

The business moved quickly to furlough all non-essential employees.

The crowdfunding campaign has raised $34,786 of its $100,000 goal — a response that Roer said went beyond what she expected. Community members have donated produce, meat, dry feed, and hay to help out.

But it took 28 days for the business to receive funds from GoFundMe as other residents and businesses raced to online platforms to secure cash flows.

“I literally processed payroll at the beginning of that week without enough money to cover the Friday distribution — on a wing and prayer,” Roer said.

Although funding soon began pouring in — the zoo received a Paycheck Protection Program loan that covered two months of payroll — the zoo still needs money to keep afloat through June.

A federal loan through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance is critical to the longterm success of the zoo. After technical hiccups on its first application, the Zoofari is still waiting on securing that loan since applying on March 31.

“Since our revenue is seasonal, each day we are closed, we are not earning money that will be saved for next winter,” Roer said. “Just getting by right now will mean that we may not get by in 9-12 months.”

Still, the animals are getting good care, she says. Roer’s veterinarian is making visits to the zoo and mask-wearing staff work in pairs to take care of animals.

Donations are still needed, Roer said. If the zoo does not pay its mortgage payments by June 1, the business could go back to its previous owner. So far, a forbearance period lasts until June 1. Funds are also needed to pay for health benefits, insurance, utilities and veterinary care.

Photos via Roer’s Zoofari/Facebook

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“LOVE” will tour around Fairfax County this summer. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan, the iconic letters will take a trip across the county to promote the message “Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation,” according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Fairfax County received a $10,000 grant from the corporation for its first permanent “LOVEwork” sign, which kicks off its tour in Tysons next month. It’ll make stops at Roer’s Zoofari (May 21-27), Reston Town Center (May 20 to June 4), and Frying Pan Farm Park (July 26 to August 4).

The tour concludes in August at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton — the permanent home of the letters.

Virginia’s slogan was coined by Richmond-based advertising agency Martin & Woltz in the late 1960s. After playing with different slogans like “Virginia is for History Lovers” and “Virginia is for mountain Lovers,” the firm chose the catch-all phrase “Virginia is for Lovers.” In 2009, the marketing campaign was recognized by Forbes.com as one of the top ten tourism marketing campaigns of all time.

Photo via Virginia Tourism Corporation

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The Reston Community Players’ 2017-18 season opens tonight as the curtain rises on their presentation of Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical “Aida.” The show, winner of four Tony Awards, will be performed through Nov. 11 at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road).

This weekend, the show is being performed at 8 p.m. both tonight and Saturday night. Tickets are $27, with student/senior tickets available for $23.

For more information about the show or about other upcoming events from the Reston Community Players, call 703-476-4500, ext. 3.

There is plenty else scheduled to take place this weekend in the area as well. Take a look at our list below.

(Editor’s Note: This is just a limited list of all the events taking place in the Reston area this weekend. If you have an event you would like to ensure is listed on the website, be sure to submit it to our Events Calendar.)

  • A trail of illuminated hand-carved pumpkins is welcoming visitors to “THE GLOW: A Jack O’Lantern Experience,” now through Oct. 29 at Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive). Presented by Townsquare Live Events, the “enchanting Halloween wonderland” features a third-of-a-mile trail decorated with more than 5,000 pumpkins. Tickets, which are $16 for kids ages 3-12 and $22 for adults, are available online and must be purchased in advance.
  • The South Lakes High School football team, 6-1 on the season and ranked No. 13 in the region by the Washington Post, return home tonight for a 7 p.m. game against McLean.
  • Sue Wrbican: Well Past the Echo” will be on view at Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market St.) through Nov. 18.
  • The Woodland Park Crossing HarvestFest will take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday in the plaza, located at 12960 Highland Crossing Drive in Herndon. The event will feature strolling performers, tenant giveaways, face painting and entertainment, and participating restaurants will offer specials and samples.
  • A digital scavenger hunt is planned in downtown Herndon from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Participants will explore various businesses and areas in downtown Herndon to find what they seek. Prizes will be given to winners who discover all the hidden treasures. The event is open to all ages, but parents must accompany any children who play.
  • The bluegrass series at Holy Cross Lutheran Church (1090 Sterling Road, Herndon) will present a performance by The Blue Moon Cowgirls at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $15, with children 12 and under admitted free.
  • At 11 a.m. Saturday, kids ages 6-12 are invited to take part in the “Halloween Science Spectacular” at the Reston Regional Library (11925 Bowman Towne Drive). Kids will explore fun Halloween science experiments that are “gooey and foggy.”
  • During “Giraffe-toberfest,” celebrate fall with animals at Roer’s Zoofari (1228 Hunter Mill Road) on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can meet the zoo’s giraffe, “Waffles.” Tickets are $20 and all proceeds will support giraffe conservation.
  • The Reston Farmers Market will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lake Anne Village Center.
  • Fashion illustrator Joanna Baker will be at Scout & Molly’s (11944 Market St.) from 2-6 p.m. Saturday. Her prints will be available for purchase and she will be on hand to answer questions.
  • Many restaurants and bars in Reston will have live music this weekend. These include Crafthouse (1888 Explorer St.) every Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; and Tavern64 (1800 Presidents St.) every Friday from 6-10 p.m; and Kalypso’s Sports Tavern (1617 Washington Plaza N.) every Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
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Beautiful homes around the community will be on display Saturday during the 16th annual Reston Home Tour.

The tour “focuses on six homes whose owners have moved in within the last few years and whose homes have given them a new perspective on their life, their surroundings and in some cases their attitudes.” The homes on the tour include residences on Bromley Village Lane, Hemingway Drive, Orchard Lane, South Shore Road and Spyglass Cove Lane, as well as at the Stratford condominiums. In addition, Reston Association’s Lake House and Bozzuto’s Aperture apartment building will be open for tour.

Tickets remain available online today for $30. On the day of the event, they can only be purchased in person at any of the homes on the tour or at the Reston Museum and Historic Trust (1639 Washington Plaza N.). All proceeds from the event benefit the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the past, informing the present and influencing the future of Reston through its educational programming, archives and exhibitions.

There is plenty else scheduled to take place this weekend in the area as well. Take a look at our list below.

(Editor’s Note: This is just a limited list of all the events taking place in the Reston area this weekend. If you have an event you would like to ensure is listed on the website, be sure to submit it to our Events Calendar.)

  • A trail of illuminated hand-carved pumpkins is welcoming visitors to “THE GLOW: A Jack O’Lantern Experience,” now through Oct. 29 at Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive). Presented by Townsquare Live Events, the “enchanting Halloween wonderland” features a third-of-a-mile trail decorated with more than 5,000 pumpkins. Tickets, which are $16 for kids ages 3-12 and $22 for adults, are available online and must be purchased in advance.
  • Frying Pan Farm Park (2709 W. Ox Road, Herndon) will put on its Fall on the Farm festival this weekend. The event is scheduled for 5-9 p.m. tonight, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. In addition, Farm Harvest Days are slated for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Children’s Fall Flea Market at Reston Community Center is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 14 at RCC Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road). The price of admission is donation of one non-perishable food item, which will go to the RCC Thanksgiving Food Drive.
  • In celebration of Fire Prevention Week, all Fairfax County Fire and Rescue stations will be hosting an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Citizens are invited to meet firefighters, see the fire trucks, join in the activities and learn about fire safety. Local stations include Reston (1820 Wiehle Ave.), North Point (1117 Reston Ave.), Herndon (680 Spring St.) and Fox Mill (2610 Reston Parkway).
  • Lake Anne Brew House will hold a fundraiser for the South Lakes High School band, which is raising money to travel to Pearl Harbor, from 7-9 p.m. tonight. The Brew House will donate $1 per pint or soda purchased to the band.
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night” Walk will take place tonight at Reston Town Center. Event festivities will start at 5 p.m., with the 1.5-mile walk to go off at 7.
  • The Runway to the Cure Fashion Show is scheduled for Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon at the Reston Town Center pavilion. Hosted by Scout & Molly’s, RTC and Athleta, the fashion show will highlight many designer fashions. Models are volunteers and include breast cancer survivors, customers and local high school students. Suggested donation is $25. All proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
  • Sue Wrbican: Well Past the Echo” will be on view at Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market St.) through Nov. 18.
  • During “Giraffe-toberfest,” celebrate fall with animals at Roer’s Zoofari (1228 Hunter Mill Road) on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can meet the zoo’s giraffe “Waffles.” Tickets are $20 and all proceeds will support giraffe conservation.
  • The Reston Farmers Market will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lake Anne Village Center.
  • Reston Association will hold an open house at The Lake House (11450 Baron Cameron Ave.) from 10-11:30 a.m. Sunday.
  • Author Karen See will discuss her book, “The Should Syndrome,” from 4-6 p.m. Sunday at Scrawl Books (11862 Market St.).
  • Many restaurants and bars in Reston will have live music this weekend. These include Crafthouse (1888 Explorer St.) every Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; and Tavern64 (1800 Presidents St.) every Friday from 6-10 p.m; and Kalypso’s Sports Tavern (1617 Washington Plaza N.) every Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
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Local restaurants will offer up their favorite fall menus on Saturday during Flavors of Fall, a free annual festival that includes live entertainment, dancing and family activities at Reston Town Center. Admission is free.

The outdoor festival, formerly known as Reston Oktoberfest and run by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, will take place from noon to 11 p.m.

New to the festival this year is a cornhole tournament, which will feature regional teams who will compete for prizes, including travel and weekend getaway packages. Another addition this year is a craft beer and VIP lounge, where attendees can purchase tickets to experience 18 different craft beers.

Confirmed restaurants include Barcelona Wine Bar, Choolaah Indian Barbecue, Clyde’s of Reston, GreenFare, The Melting Pot, Mom’s Momo, Pittsburgh Rick’s and Tavern 64 Regional Kitchen.

There is plenty else scheduled to take place this weekend in the area as well. Take a look at our list below.

(Editor’s Note: This is just a limited list of all the events taking place in the Reston area this weekend. If you have an event you would like to ensure is listed on the website, be sure to submit it to our Events Calendar.)

  • A trail of illuminated hand-carved pumpkins is welcoming visitors to “THE GLOW: A Jack O’Lantern Experience,” now through Oct. 29 at Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive). Presented by Townsquare Live Events, the “enchanting Halloween wonderland” features a third-of-a-mile trail decorated with more than 5,000 pumpkins. Tickets, which are $16 for kids ages 3-12 and $22 for adults, are available online and must be purchased in advance.
  • The South Lakes High School homecoming parade will begin at 5 p.m. tonight at Hunters Woods Village Center. It will proceed down Colts Neck Road to South Lakes Drive to the high school, where is is expected to arrive between 6 and 6:30 p.m., and it will be followed by the South Lakes Seahawks’ homecoming game against Langley. SLHS Leadership will be collecting funds for Hurricane Harvey relief.
  • Get ready to run in the Reston Pumpkin 5K and Kids Pumpkin Dash on Sunday at 8:15 a.m. in the Reston Town Center (11921 Freedom Drive). Participants are encouraged to debut their Halloween costumes.
  • Join the Greater Reston Arts Center as it says goodbye to “A Bird in the Hand,” a wooden, nest-like sculpture in Reston Town Square Park (11990 Market St.), Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Watch the “Amazing Acro-cats,” a troupe of performing house cats, at NextStop Theatre Company (269 Sunset Park Drive) as they complete tricks through the magic of clicker training. Shows run on Saturday at 4 and 7 p.m., on Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m., and on Monday at 1 p.m. Purchase tickets online here.
  • Sue Wrbican: Well Past the Echo” will be on view at Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market St.) through Nov. 18.
  • Meet author Maya Corrigan on Saturday from 6 – 7 p.m. in Scrawl Books (11862 Market St.) as she talks about Edgar Allen Poe and her book “The Tell-Tale Tarte.”
  • The Reston Farmers Market will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lake Anne Village Center.
  • During “Giraffe-toberfest,” celebrate fall with animals at Roer’s Zoofari (1228 Hunter Mill Road) on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can meet the zoo’s giraffe “Waffles.” Tickets are $20 and all proceeds will support giraffe conservation.
  • Kids can create a healthy snack with food from Kidwell Farm (2739 West Ox Road) at Frying Pan Park. One-hour sessions in the “Kids Can Cook!” program begin at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cost is $7 per child. An adult must attend class with the child.
  • Watch Mucca Pazza as they combine marching band traditions and street theater spectacles on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road). Tickets are $20 for Reston residents and $30 for all other residents.
  • Many restaurants and bars in Reston will have live music this weekend. These include Crafthouse (1888 Explorer St.) every Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; and Tavern64 (1800 Presidents St.) every Friday from 6-10 p.m; and Kalypso’s Sports Tavern (1617 Washington Plaza N.) every Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
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One of the rarest forms of water buffalo in the world can be found right here in Reston at Roer’s Zoofari.

The zoo (1228 Hunter Mill Road) recently acquired a pair of lowland anoa, endangered dwarf water buffalo from Indonesia that are so rare there are only about 70 in the United States.

“We work with several breeding programs to ensure that the Zoofari has adequate environments for these threatened, endangered or even vulnerable animals,” said Vanessa Stoffel, one of the zoo’s owners.

Anoa are characterized by their small, stocky bodies covered with thick, dark hair. They almost look like a brown cattle crossed with a woodland deer. They eat aquatic plants, ferns and grasses. Similarly to other water buffalo, they like to bathe in pools of water and mud.

While the species is technically protected under Indonesian law, its endangered status comes from hunting and habitat loss. In the past, their skulls and horns have been harvested by these hunters and sold for use in traditional medicine.

Visitors to the former Reston Zoo can enjoy the rare animals in a new barnyard area that has lots of fresh air for the animals. Another new addition is the use of buses to transport guests around the zoo, instead of the tractors that were formerly used.

“It was getting difficult to find someone who could control a tractor in Reston,” Stoffel said.

The buses are easier to maintain, she said, and visitors can still experience alpacas and other animals walking up to the buses as they go on the Zoofari.

The zoo also features an interactive exhibit with a camel and giraffe. At certain times, visitors can pay $5 to feel the animals. Patrons are able to go up close and personal with the animals during these encounters.

“If you hold your palm flat [to the camel], he’ll even give you kisses,” said zookeeper Alisha Benack as she monitored the camel encounter. On cue, the camel kissed and nuzzled her just as friendly as a dog would.

Roer’s Zoofari is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with times for special exhibits and encounters available daily. Visit its website for ticket information or call 703-757-6222.

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Friday Morning Notes

Toll Road Ramp Detour Starts This Weekend — The ramp from the eastbound Dulles Toll Road to the Fairfax County Parkway will be diverted through the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride parking lot. The detour is expected to remain in place through 2017 to allow Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project crews to perform utility and road work on the ramp. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Wombat Hoax Spreads on Twitter — A Twitter account posing as Roer’s Zoofari has been claiming this week that a wombat escaped from the zoo. A lot of people fell for the gag. [Reston Patch]

Trip to Pro Tennis Match Slated — Reston Association will have a group outing Tuesday night to see Martina Hingis and the Washington Kastles face the New York Empire. [Reston Association]

Sobriety Checkpoint Saturday Night — Police departments from Fairfax and Loudoun counties will be working together at a sobriety checkpoint Saturday night from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the Centreville/Chantilly area. [Fairfax County Police Department]

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chinese-lantern-festivalReston residents will be able to bask in the glow of handcrafted Chinese lanterns during a festival at Roer’s Zoofari in Vienna later this month.

The zoo (formerly the Reston Zoo at 1228 Hunter Mill Road) at is ready be filled with more than 40 lantern sets and 800 bright displays as part of its ongoing Chinese Lantern Festival starting Nov. 16.

Visitors will be transported throughout the world as they walk among Chinese lanterns shaped like lions, tigers, monkeys and even dinosaurs.

Touted as “a modern take on the ancient art of lantern-making,” the festival will include artisans, craftsmen and performers. In addition to viewing the glowing artwork displays, visitors can watch live martial arts shows and shop for souvenirs and gifts made by folk artists.

“Twenty artists from China will work on-site at Roers Zoofari for weeks in a temporary ‘lantern factory’ to create exquisite scenes that include animals from throughout the world,” reads a press release for the event. “From lions to dinosaurs, giraffes to whales–even a herd of zebra’s–figures will form dreamscapes of color and motion.”

The Chinese Lantern Festival will run from Wednesday, Nov. 16 through Sunday, Jan. 1. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children over 3.

Photo courtesy of Chinese Lantern Festival

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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.

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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.

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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

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