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The drummers greeted gala attendees.

Featured Article

New Views Coming to the Zoo

Gala raises funds for improvements at OKC Zoo

Article by Andrew Griffin

Photography by Andrew Griffin

Originally published in OKC City Lifestyle

From out in the parking lot of the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, you could hear the throb of pounding drums.

“Where am I,” I muttered to myself.

It turned out to be the hypnotic rhythms of the 15-member, Dallas-based Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble.

This high-energy musical group were providing the authentic African-themed entertainment for the Under African Skies gala and fundraiser here at the Oklahoma City Zoo and co-sponsored by the Oklahoma Zoological Society.

The OKC Zoo Gala, according to communications director Candice Rennels, was for the currently-under-construction Expedition Africa exhibit, which is the zoo’s largest habitat expansion in history.

With tickets selling out within weeks, funds raised from OKC Zoo Gala will benefit the Oklahoma City Zoo’s latest and largest habitat expansion in its history, Expedition Africa.

Slated to open June 2023, Expedition Africa will feature enhanced animal habitats for giraffe, honey badger, flamingos, zebra, okapi, wildebeest and more while creating new and immersive guest experiences.

The June 3rd event, presented by John and Claudia Hollman Affiliated Fund, recognized the dedicated individuals who have amplified the Oklahoma City Zoo’s mission of connecting Oklahomans with the world's wildlife and wild places.

Additionally, the 2022 OKC Zoo Gala Legacy Honorees include Byron Gambulos, Don and Carolyn Zachritz and the Kirkpatrick Foundation and Kirkpatrick Family Fund.

Speaking to the large crowd enjoying beef tenderloin and shrimp, OKC Zoo’s executive director and CEO Dwight Lawson welcomed everyone to the gala and spoke highly of

“It’s an honor to be highlighting these extraordinary awardees and acknowledge their passion for the Zoo,” Lawson said. “Their significant contributions to the growth of the Oklahoma City ZOO have made it the premiere destination it is today, treasured by millions who have visited.”

And Mandy Heaps, Oklahoma Zoological Society executive director, said “Our success wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and care provided by our Zoo Gala honorees. I am certain that their examples of generosity will inspire Oklahoma City community to join us in supporting the Zoo’s newest expansion, Expedition Africa.”

Oklahoma City resident and longtime zoo supporter Gayle Townley said she had recently traveled to several countries in Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania and took part in a safari, taking in the wild experience that is being reflected here at the zoo.

The live auction held during the gala resulted in a lot of bidding, including for a painting by artist Zonly Looman of Edmond, who painted a lion and elephant during the event. Resultingly, over $200,000 was raised to help the zoo through the evening's auction.

After the recognition of the honorees, Bandan Koro’s drum performance and a three-course meal, a Twilight After Party, presented by Devon Energy, was held, including complimentary drink tickets, hors d’oeuvres, food truck access, photo oppoirtunities, dancing, unlimited carousel rides and a vist to the Herpetarium.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. 

Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.

  • One of the "BRICKLIVE" giraffe creations at the Oklahoma City Zoo
  • A member of the Bandan Koro African Drug & Dance Ensemble at the OKC Zoo.
  • The zoo's lake at dusk.
  • The highly-anticipated "Expedition Africa" exhibit coming in 2023.
  • The drummers greeted gala attendees.
  • Gala attendees received special zoo-animal-themed cookies.
  • The elephants are a popular part of the OKC Zoo experience.
  • BRICKLIVE is underway at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

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