Philadelphia Zoo to Hold 3rd Annual Global Conservation Gala to Honor Innovators in the World of Conservation

Hosted by star of ‘Extra’ Maria Menounos, the Gala Celebrates those Working to Save Habitat and Wildlife
(October 19, 2012) - On Thursday, November 1, 2012, the Philadelphia Zoo will host its 3rd Annual Global Conservation Gala, honoring innovators in the world of conservation. The 2012 honorees are the Hamilton Family, Girl Scouts Rhiannon Tomitshen and Madison Vorva; Project ORANGS and the Zoo CREW—Zoo Champions for Restoring Endangered Wildlife. The Gala will be hosted by journalist, bestselling author, national correspondent, international spokesperson and host of Extra, Maria Menounos, with a special video presentation from the legendary Betty White.

As part of the Gala celebration, awards will be presented in three different categories:

Conservation Impact Award: The Hamilton Family
This award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to conservation and species and habitat preservation through leadership resulting in a lasting positive change. The Hamilton Family leads the way in educating children on the wonders of nature, and as the Zoo prepares to open’s its new KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children Zoo & Faris Family Education Center, it recognizes this outstanding family for its positive impact on generations to come.

Emerging Conservation Leader Award: Rhiannon Tomitshen and Madison Vorva; Project ORANGS
This award recognizes individuals on a path toward leadership in conservation. Rhiannon and Madison are being acknowledged for their work to bring awareness to endangered orangutans. As they set out to earn their Girl Scout Bronze Award the girl scouts learned that wild orangutans’ habitat was being destroyed due to the harvesting of palm oil plantations, and later discovered that palm oil was used in Girl Scout Cookies. As a result they launched a successful campaign, called Project ORANGS, to make Girl Scout Cookies orangutan-friendly.

Global Conservation Prize: Zoo CREW Scholarship
This multi-year financial commitment recognizes those who have the potential to create global impact on wildlife preservation. At this year’s Gala, the Zoo will announce the launch of Zoo CREW (Zoo Champions for Restoring Endangered Wildlife), a three-year new youth program that builds from the successes of the Zoo’s long-running Junior Zoo Apprentice Program (JZAP). The Global Conservation Prize will go toward the Zoo CREW Scholarship Fund, to further invest in these high achieving youth after they graduate from high school and the Zoo CREW program. Through this scholarship program, students who meet annual performance requirements through their three-year Zoo CREW experience will be awarded $5,000 toward their college career. Area colleges and universities have committed to matching this financial award for any Zoo CREW student accepted to that school.

Over the next 10 years, the Zoo is committed to providing $500,000 in scholarships to Zoo CREW graduates, and has achieved commitments of $500,000 in matching funds from local colleges and universities.

In previous years the Gala has served as the launch of various conservation efforts including the inaugural Gala which helped save the golden lion tamarin, a spectacular primate from southeastern Brazil, with a ten-year commitment to sustaining the leadership role for the key NGO spearheading conservation efforts for the species. In 2011 the Zoo launched The Year of the Orangutan and created a multi-faceted campaign to inspire and empower local students, Zoo guests and other potential “orangutan champions” to make good choices in their everyday lives to create a better future for wild orangutans.

“This year the Gala will recognize champions who are making a difference and are committed to saving animals on a local, regional and global level, by demonstrating a commitment to educating younger generations about conservation,” said Philadelphia Zoo President & CEO Vikram Dewan. “We admire and applaud their passion, dedication and significant achievements, and hope their incredible work will inspire others to also make a difference for our planet.”

With an emphasis on educating future generations about conservation, the Gala will highlight the new KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo and Faris Family Education Center, which is scheduled to open in spring 2013. KidZooU will be a LEED-certified, sustainable, state-of-the-art, wildlife academy that unites a world-view education center with a reimagined up-close children’s zoo.

“The Zoo is often a child’s first experience with the natural world and, at the Zoo, we strongly believe that there is nothing more important than inspiring children and cultivating passion for protecting our planet,” said Gretchen Burke, Board Member and Global Conservation Gala Co-Chair. “With that in mind, it is an honor to recognize those who have made a difference in regards to educating our future generations.”