by Kirby Lindsay, posted 6 July 2012
The Woodland Park Zoo provides an entertaining yet conscientious way to experience nearly 1,000 animals (representing 300 species) in nearly authentic representations of their native habitats. As a result, the Zoo must be a home for these critters, keeping them fed and seeing that they stay healthy.
The annual Jungle Party, this year on July 13th, is the biggest fundraiser the Zoo holds to keep the critter chow flowing, along with veterinary care, training, enrichment and nutrition. As Christy Cheever, Major Gifts Officer & Fundraising Events Manager at Woodland Park, acknowledged, “[the animals] have really high quality of life at the Zoo.
Two weeks before the Jungle Party, tickets to the dinner portion had already sold out – filling between 820 and 850 seats set out under tents on the Zoo’s meadow. “It sold out faster than ever,” Cheever admitted, giving credit to Sally and David Wright, the Jungle Party Chairpersons. Tickets still remain available for the reception, held before dinner, for those who want to help fund the day-to-day costs of running a Zoo. For those who attend, and those who don’t, the Zoo offers a variety of opportunities to enjoy, and assist, the animals.
‘From Bali To Borneo’
In addition to raising much needed funds (according to Cheever, it cost $100,000 a year to care for one hippopotamus – and Woodland Park Zoo has two,) the Jungle Party “is kind of our platform, to educate the community on what the Zoo does,” she explained. They help attendees see the work done over the last year (including enrichment programs like the recent introduction of boat bumpers for the elephants,) and talk about what they’d like to do in the near future.
For this year the Jungle Party theme is ‘From Bali To Borneo,’ and will, “highlight that area of the world, and the animals from there.” This forms part of the on-going capital fundraising campaign for the Asian Tropical Forest exhibit.
“It’s the last really outdated exhibit we have,” Cheever admitted about the current ‘home’ for the tigers and sloth bears. Over the next few years they want to create a habitat similar to what the animals would experience in the wild, “as much as you can in Seattle,” she acknowledged.
Construction of the entire proposed exhibit has a projected cost of $21 million, broken down over time into phases. Fundraising for phase one ended in May, which means groundbreaking will begin in September for a habitat for Asian small-clawed otters and an Asian-themed ‘Kid’s Camp’ play area. If all goes according to plan, the area will open in May of 2013.
‘Fund Our Future’
To “keep the lights on” in 2013, as Cheever joked, the Jungle Party needs to raise between $1.4 and 1.5 million dollars. However, the evening also contains a ‘raise-your-paddle’ ask where attendees can choose to ‘Fund Our Future,’ and give to a “Kids & Care: Share The Wonder” program.
The ‘Care’ portion will go towards acquisition of the small-clawed otters and the veterinary care, quarantine, and training they need before emerging before the public. Also, it will fund a new nutritional program for all the animals, and a new off-exhibit area for caring for the snow leopards – and their growing family (see the Zoo blog from May about the new cubs!)
The ‘Kids’ portion of ‘Fund Our Future’ will allow expansion of the educational programs provided on, and off, Zoo grounds. About the burgeoning early-education programs, for children under 5 years of age, Cheever observed, “we have been pleasantly surprised at how popular they have been.”
These programs include the on-site Zoomazium, a nature-focused school readiness program for 4 and 5 year olds, and a new Little Critters program that transports animals into Seattle Public Libraries – and others around Puget Sound – for encounters with young children, and parents, for free.
Can You Help?
In 2011, the Woodland Park Zoo attendance exceeded one million people for the 11th consecutive year – although a majority of those only visit on nice, sunny, dry days. Still, the Zoo must operate – and provide for its animals – “in snow or rain or sunshine,” Cheever acknowledged. “We do much of our business in the summer,” she agreed, and the Jungle Party will raise the funds necessary to keep the Zoo operational through the long, cold, wet winter.
“It takes the entire Zoo to put this on,” Cheever acknowledged, “We try very hard to make it new and different each year.” Before the dinner, attendees can go take tours of the Zoo with zookeepers, getting answers to questions they’ve always wanted to ask. The evening also includes live entertainment, both a silent and live auction, and delicious food and drink created by several area chefs and bartenders.
“They are fond of letting me know,” Cheever said as she took a brief break from work on the 36th Jungle Party, “that this started as a potluck.” What began as a casual gathering of Zoo supporters and Zookeepers has, by 2012, she explained, “turned into this magnificent event we hold each year.”
For those who want to experience some of the excitement, celebration and ‘From Bali To Borneo’ inspiration, purchase tickets to the reception by contacting email@example.com or call 206/548.2547. For those who want to learn more about the Zoo, and about how you can help, visit the Zoo website, read the blog and then stop by for a critter visit!
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.