Oh, Boa!

The event: Zoofari, a dinner-dance held where the wild things are at the Santa Ana Zoo. "Seeking the Lost Tribe of Zu'Fahri" was the theme of the upscale safari, staged Saturday by the Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo to raise funds for expansion of the children's petting zoo.

Party animals: More than 300 guests showed up sporting wild attire, with many women in animal-print gowns and men wearing safari hats and shorts with their tuxedos. They were issued treasure maps that led them past zoo exhibits in search of the lost Zu'Fahri. "They're a very elusive tribe. We hear they're party-goers," said Debbie Newmeyer, event chairwoman.

Guests stopped to pose for a photo with Miss Snakely, a 7-foot boa constrictor. "I hate snakes. I faint at a worm, but I had to do it," said guest Katy Roy, after wearing the boa around her shoulders like an evening wrap. Party-goers ended up in a scenic garden where they dined at tables decorated with animal-shaped topiaries and danced to the rock and tribal tunes of the Blue Machine. By then the identity of the Zu'Fahri was clear: "It's us. We're the lost tribe," Newmeyer said.

Talk to the animals: The Santa Ana Zoo features South American species in natural settings, including a walk-through aviary where visitors mingle with exotic birds. Cages are noticeably absent. "You're so close to the animals. You can almost touch the monkeys," said Paige Kunkle, who attended with her husband, Jay, vice president of the Friends board. She's been coming to the zoo since she was a child. "It's still the same quaint zoo."

Quote: "I call the zoo Orange County's hidden jewel," Jay Kunkle said. "It's a wonderful place for children to come and learn about the animals. You can do it in a couple of hours and not get overwhelmed."

Bottom line: Zoofari was expected to net $50,000. Remodeling of the children's zoo is scheduled to begin in early 1999.

Faces: Zee Allred and Sue Cannon, honorary chairwomen; Carl and Vivian Browne, Richard and Laura Lee Browne, Michael and Terez Trevitt, Philip and Erin Jaffarian, Curtis and Cathy Farrell, Linda Nelessen, Howard and Karin Hall, Ron and Joyce Glazier, Chris and Kathleen Edman and Janus Angus.

What's ahead: The Santa Ana Zoo's Tree Tops exhibit, featuring bats and sloths, opens Sept. 11. A Boo at the Zoo Family Spooktacular for children 12 and younger will be Oct. 23, 24 and 25. The zoo is at 1801 E. Chestnut Ave. in Santa Ana. Call (714) 953-8555.

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