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Nocturnal animals promote Summer Nights at Busch Gardens

Darwin2Meet Darwin. He’s an echidna. He looks like a hedgehog, but he’s not. That's his snout you see. He’s only recently been introduced to his mate-to-be, named Adelaide. Like the cities they’re named for, they are from Australia. And they are nocturnal, which is why Darwin came to the Miami Herald newsroom Wednesday, promoting Busch Gardens’ Summer Nights.

Darwin allowed himself to be petted — front to back only, unless you want to get stuck on one of those spines. But as a photo model, Darwin was uncooperative, burying his face in his blanket when he could. The rest of the time, he scooted around on the floor, poking his snout into corners where he hoped to find bugs. He had no comment on whether he succeeded.

Darwin was accompanied by Emmett, an eastern screech owl. Emmett, who is also nocturnal, was hand-raised by people, so as far as he’s concerned, humans are the source of food. Let him loose in the wild and he’d be in trouble at dinner time. Which is why he’s a permanent resident of Busch Gardens and one of the park’s animal ambassadors.  Owl2

Emmett is something of a ham, turning his head this way and that — and we’re talking turns of up to 270 degrees — for the camera.

Here’s their news: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is now on summer hours, staying open until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For the first time, there are fireworks every night. The park has “Let’s Get Loud,” a Latin-infused Miami-style dance party, with a dance competition on Fridays and Saturdays; and the Kinetix show, with music and acrobatics.

Island Nights Fire Breather

Across the street, Adventure Island, Busch Gardens’ water park, has extended its hours to 9 p.m. every night until mid-August, with a DJ, steel drum band, stiltwalkers, magicians, jugglers and fire performers.