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Houston Zoo celebrates South America's wetland, the Astros and $715,000 raised at conservation gala

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Oct. 15, 2019

12th annual Wildlife Conservation Gala in the Museum District raises funds to save South American species including the giant armadillo and giant anteater
Myrtle Jones and Nick Espinosa at the Houston Zoo's 12th annual Wildlife Conservation Gala on October 10, 2019.
"Welcome to Hotel Armadillo!"
That's how Dr. Arnaud Desbiez , honoree of the Houston Zoo's 12th annual Wildlife Conservation Gala, endorsed this year's theme, "Pantanal: South America's Wetland Jewel."
Of course, if you surveyed any of the baseball fans in attendance, last Thursday's event in the Museum District could've easily been mistaken for Hotel Astros, too. A number of the evening's 500 gala-goers remained glued to their iPhones throughout the program, dutifully following the Astros' showdown against the Tampa Bay Rays. But don't worry, Houston Zoo organizers gave their blessing. They practically encouraged game-watching by stationing flat-screen televisions throughout the shindig to live-stream the action from Minute Maid Park.
Though most supporters, dressed down in their "cool and colorful" best, were there for the animals. To them, little can top the thrill of zipping through zoo grounds via golf carts, flying past elephants at the McNair Habitat Area or getting up-and-close and personal with "Carl" the bearded dragon, "Curly" the sloth, "Denver" the blue and yellow macaw, and "Fiesta" the llama during the ever-popular animal meet and greet.
Sorry, sports fans.
Following a Brazilian-accented feast - City Kitchen served beef tenderloin medallions with chimichurri corn, smoked chili flan asparagus tapioca, and a chocolate torte with passion fruit meringue -  KPRC-2 anchor and emcee Andy Cerota spoke of his own recent adventure to the Patanal, where he accompanied a team in connection with the zoo to observe efforts to save South American species.
Guest speaker Dr. Desbiez followed, sharing that motorists are one of the biggest dangers that both giant armadillos and giant anteaters face. Which led to spirited bidding for the opportunity to name a wild, giant armadillo during the live auction. Other big ticket items included an eight-day summer escape to Telluride, Colo. and dinner for 20 in the Nau Family Gorilla Treehouse plus a feeding experience.
By night's end, both the Astros and Zoo won big; the home team finished 6 - 1 and gala co-chairs Ginger Renfroe Blanton and Renee Renfroe fetched $715,000 toward conservation efforts. Cheers erupted from the tents erected over the Masihara Pavilion just as jazz music singer Raquel Cepeda began her after-party set - serendipitously, for a celebration times two.
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