The five-member team of welders at Tucson Electric Power spends most days building substation structures based on precise engineering plans.

It’s important and meaningful work that helps ensure reliable electricity for the community – but certainly not as free-flowing and creative as fashioning a 3D alligator out of steel.

The rebar reptile made its debut at Zoocson in October and will also be a part of the annual Zoo Lights holiday event at Reid Park Zoo, which kicks off Dec. 4.

“When we heard about how we might help, we all thought it would be an interesting project and were looking forward to the challenge,” said Arron Porter, Fabrication and Welding Shop Supervisor.

He joked that while TEP customers likely pass by substations at various points in their travels, they won’t attract as much attention as a glowing, twinkling and green 9-foot reptile.

Left to right. Victor Rojas, Thomas Schwickrath, Robert Howell, Jason Nash, Albert Ramos.

Their efforts saved the zoo from having to purchase a custom sculpture, which can be costly. The team soon will begin training zoo staff so they can develop more expertise in welding for other jobs around their 24-acre campus.

“TEP has been an important part of the zoo for more than 25 years – from bringing solar energy to providing equipment to move animals to providing LED lights for Zoo Lights,” said Nancy Kluge, President Reid Park Zoological Society. “This alligator is going to be a hit at Zoo Lights and we are so appreciative of this great addition.”

Porter said many of the welders’ families attend the zoo frequently enough to warrant annual passes. “We were happy to support a nonprofit that is such an important part of the fabric of our community,” he said.

They’re already planning next year’s project: A hippopotamus.