The numbers aren’t record-breaking, but they still tally success.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium drew 661,748 visitors last year, thanks in part to the celebration of Zoolights’ 25th year and to the new zoo babies featured in the clouded leopard, tiger and red wolf exhibits.
It was the third-highest annual attendance year in the Tacoma zoo’s 107-year history.
Daytime attendance at 549,184 in 2012 was the fourth-largest; Zoolights turned out its third-highest attendance, with 112,564.
“The numbers are a testament to the work of our staff and to the residents who have come to love Zoolights as a cherished holiday season tradition,” said Gary Geddes, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma.
Officials had hoped Zoolights attendance in 2012 would meet or pass 2011’s record-smashing tally of 135,907. Last year’s attendance was up about 21 percent from 2010 but behind totals in 2011 and the 10th annual event in 1997 (116,523).
Nevertheless, the public came in droves to see the dazzling displays of lights, including a new 100-foot Giant Pacific Octopus atop the North Pacific Aquarium.
The event ran from Nov. 23 to Jan. 1, and featured more than 500,000 lights. It even prompted Mayor Marilyn Strickland to declare December Zoolights Month in the city.
Zoo officials are predicting more fun this year with new exhibits and programs:
• The Stingray Cove, with 50 stingrays in interactive touch tanks, is scheduled to open in May.
• The public will be able to swim with the sharks during guided dives or climb into a cage for the Eye-to-Eye Sharks experience in the South Pacific Aquarium.
• “Captain Adventure vs. Dr. Do-Nothing: The Quest to Get Outside!” will return in May at the new Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653