Zoolanders: Big Cats Dine with Sea Lions

by Wendy Sy Photographed by Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com and Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
Friday, June 9, 2017

Endangered species was the topic of conversation last night at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Big Cats Gala. At cocktails at the Central Park Zoo, more than 500 guests mingled around the Central Garden where sea lions came out to play in the adjacent pool.

Dinner started at 8pm with a welcome speech by WCS chair Antonia Grumbach.“We are gathered to shine a spotlight on a group of species that demand and need our attention,” said Grumbach. “WCS has played a critical role at its zoos and in the field raising awareness of threats to tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars and more, while reversing their decline.”

Cristián Samper, president and CEO of WCS, took the stage next to welcome the honorees of the event: Julian Robertson and George Schaller. As the founder of the hedge fund Tiger Management, Robertson provided lead financing for the Tiger Mountain exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, which delights and educates millions of visitors. “Now that I have grandchildren who give me an excuse to go to the zoo all the time, I appreciate it even more. Right here in this amazing park, we can travel around the world and see grizzly bears, tropical birds, snow leopards and penguins, all within five tiny acres. It’s remarkable.”

A video presentation was shown to highlight the work of Schaller, a field biologist with Panthera and senior conservationist at the WCS. “If you believe in something that is beautiful and worth preserving for future generations, you have to keep fighting,” he said. Having traveled extensively since the 1950s while conducting landmark studies, he has turned his research into 16 scientific books.

The WCS After Dark party—supported by diamond jeweler Nirav Modi—followed with dancing under the stars to the tunes of DJ Luther Riggs. “Living in New York, it has been nice to be able to work with an organization that is here but has worldwide reach,” said Alexandra Vaughn, a co-chair of WCS After Dark, which brings together more than 600 young professionals between 21 and 40 years old. “The impact of contributions will not go unnoticed. We are focusing our efforts to contribute to keeping endangered species around.”

In addition to big cats, the evening highlighted the WCS marine conservation programs, in correlation with World Oceans Day. Maybe that’s why the sea lions were giving their trainers high fives.


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