When it comes to summer flings, it doesn’t get any wilder than the Beastly Ball. This year, animal lovers had good reason to let their spirits soar as they celebrated the return of the California condor.
Guests were greeted by a calypso band and given smart eco-bags to carry their gear.
Revelers went all out for the safari-themed event, sporting bush jackets, pith helmets, African prints, zebra-patterned shorts, cheetah scarves and ethnic jewelry. Armed with our zoo maps, we boarded tiger striped trams and headed for the upper reaches.
The ball is the perfect place to increase your critter cred with access to all the zoo’s beautiful beasts. It was here we met Jacob, an American red tailed boa constrictor who came to the zoo courtesy of Slash of Guns N’ Roses fame.
“He used to be a rock star snake,” zookeeper Mark Atha explained, “But when [Slash] had a baby, it was the baby or the snake … and the baby won.”
Although Jacob measured a mere four feet, bigger boas can grow up to 10 feet.
Elephants ready for feeding time grooved to the beat of conga and bongo bands playing world music, while a cuddly koala munched on a breakfast of eucalyptus leaves.
Zookeepers may have been breaking out their grains, berries and greens, but the humans were also in for some incredible eats. Making our way past the bamboo groves, we came across a cornucopia of fare from every corner of the planet-or at least the greater Los Angeles metro area.
There was beet risotto with goat cheese from Celestino, sushi from Yamashiro and prime rib sandwiches from Tam O’Shanter Inn. El Cholo brought its famed tamales while Pink’s slathered the chili and piled up the cheese on its foot long dogs.
Betty White sailed through the crowd wearing a breezy turquoise and yellow tunic. As far as the fate of the condor is concerned, the veteran actress and long time Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association trustee couldn’t be happier. “We’re really making big gains,” she said.
In 1982 there were just 22 of the magnificent creatures left. Thanks to the California Condor Recovery Project, those numbers have grown to more than 300. The zoo, was instrumental in saving the critters from the brink of extinction. As a partner in the program, the zoo aided in captive breeding of the birds and their reintroduction to the wild. With 126 condor chicks having hatched at the zoo, its goal is establishing a self-sustaining wild population.
“The remarkable success story of the Condor Recovery Program epitomizes the zoo’s commitment to conservation,” said Zoo Director John Lewis. “It provides reason to hope that other critically endangered animals can be saved.”
Dinner tables were dressed up in shades of tangerine, turquoise and scarlet and topped with adorable, plush, toy condors peeking out of a nest of sunflowers. Fritz Coleman played celebrity auctioneer, pulling in big bucks for Jamaican getaways and a South African safari.
After walking on the wild side, party animals danced the night away.
The ball raised more than $1.2 million to help GLAZA continue its work as an educational resource and international center for the conservation of endangered species.