Today is Jeremiah Jud’s birthday, and he is 5 years old.
While he was at Gladys Porter Zoo with his family and friends Wednesday, he said that if he had a chance to name the 8-month-old baby gorilla there he’d name him Mike — after his teddy bear.
And if he had to pay for the privalege, he’d be willing to shell out $2,000.
The gorilla, who will be 9 months old Oct. 15, doesn’t have a name yet—but that will soon change. During Zoofari 2012, the Gladys Porter Zoo is offering naming rights to the highest bidder.
“We have held off on naming the baby since January when it was born,” said Cristina Caballero, Gladys Porter Zoo public relations coordinator. “Now we’re letting people have that chance and name the baby gorilla,”
So what is the value of naming a baby gorilla? The highest bidder wins the right to name the playful gorilla, who was seen Wednesday sticking close to his mother, Martha, during a live auction Friday night.
Zoo Director Patrick M. Burchfield said proceeds from the event are earmarked for the South Texas Discovery Center, a new education facility. It would help the zoo accommodate more groups who want to visit the facility to learn, which is a key part of Gladys Porter Zoo’s mission.
“You can’t have conservation without education,” Burchfield said from the current education center, which was packed with a huge variety of items for a Saturday night blackboard auction.
Caballero said that although Friday night is more formal, the Saturday night event will feature a barbecue and music.
“It’s a more lax environment. We have blackboard auctions, and we have a huge barbecue so instead of being inside, we bring tables outside and we’re going to let everyone enjoy the barbecue outside,” she said.
2012 Zoofari Chairperson Mary Carey said she expects the event to raise somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000, which will hopefully help the zoo finish construction on the South Texas Discovery Center.
Burchfield said the hope is that the education center will be open by March or April of next year, but it’s dependent on the fundraising.
Caballero said once ther center is completed, space designated for education at the zoo will increase by 385 percent. The center will encompass nearly 10,000 square feet and feature five classrooms, a natural history library, a graphic arts room, and a campfire area for Starlight Safaris.
“So it’s just a whole lot of, really, just educating the children in what it is to conserve our planet and save dwindling species,” she said, adding that she expects the event to be a success. “In the past, we’ve done pretty well in our fundraising efforts. This is the second year that we are raising funds for the discovery center. We do need additional funds to help complete the inside.”
Friday night is a magical-themed night that will feature cocktails, hors d’ oeuvres and an animal revue. As the sun sets and the Valley cools off, the zoo will offer the night’s signature drink, a Magical Monkey. There will be a catered dinner and a live auction. That’s when the highest bidder will win the chance to name Martha’s baby, an 8-month-old gorilla.
Saturday is more relaxed. There will be an animal revue and face painting. And of course, the barbecue. And then there is the blackboard auction that features 300 to 400 items ranging from jewelry, art, home décor, furniture, tools, children’s toys and get a ways. DJ Noe Cisneros will be on hand and Johnny Garcia will entertain visitors with a magical performance on both nights.
The Premiere Evening is both Friday and Saturday and tickets are $125 for members and $135 for nonmembers. Tickets for the more relaxed Zoofari Evening on Saturday are $35 for nonmembers and $30 for members. Dinner is included in admission for both nights.
For more information about auction items or to secure a ticket, call the Gladys Porter Zoo at (956) 546-7187.