The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society Celebrates 50 Years of Excellence at Tropical Safari Gala


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In celebration of 50 extraordinary years as the tropical treasure of The Palm Beaches, the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society announces it raised a record-breaking $1.75 million for wildlife at its annual Tropical Safari gala.  

Over 400 guests attended the event on February 1, 2019, on the lush tropical grounds of the Zoo in West Palm Beach. The event had not been held on Zoo grounds in over 15 years.  Zoo Board Chairman, Michele Kessler shared, “What better time than our 50th birthday to host the phenomenal supporters of the Zoo at the home of our beautiful and inspiring animals.”

Guests were wowed by the transformation of the Zoo’s grounds through the imaginative event design and production by Rafanelli. Guests were dazzled by up-close encounters with the Zoo’s majestic animals, as it is the only black-tie event where hundreds mingle with wildlife.

“A special thanks to our 2019 Gala Co-Chairs Greg Connors and Julie & Mike Connors for their devoted work on behalf of the Zoo,” said Margo McKnight, Zoo President & CEO. “Bringing the gala back to the Zoo to begin celebrations for our golden anniversary was a major undertaking, and our chairs guided the way tirelessly.”

‪During the unforgettable evening, the Zoo proudly honored Candace and the late William H. Hamm III with the Zoo’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award for their lifelong commitment to conservation. Said Candace, when learning of the honor, “We hope you will bring yourselves, your children, and grandchildren to learn about our animals, so you can experience the enchantment and awakening that comes from a visit to our hometown Zoo.”

Guests were treated to an exclusive debut of a short film on the Zoo’s 50 year history created by Board Member and Event Co-Chair Whitney Bylin, an accomplished documentary film writer, producer and director, who secured best-selling author James Patterson as narrator, and award-winning cinematographer Brian Bayerl as producer, director, cinematographer, writer and editor.

Another highlight was a lively auction, conducted by retired Sotheby’s Chairman of the Americas, Jamie Niven, featuring exclusive items such as a private chef dinner for 10 couples in the home of the Zoo’s chairman and naming rights to the Zoo’s week-old baby tapir.

‪Amid the exotic, glamorous ambiance, guests of the black-tie affair dined on haute cuisine by Silver Sac Catering and danced to the popular Boston band Sultans of Swing. Upon leaving the event, guests were treated to warm chocolate chip cookies for the ride home and a very Zoo woven gift bag with treats from Tammy Fender, Peterbrooke Chocolatier, Florida Crystals, and Lori Jayne Monogramming.

‪About the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society

‪As a home to 550+ animals, many of them endangered, the Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches exists to inspire people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world. We advance our conservation mission through endangered species propagation, education and support of conservation initiatives in the field. Our commitment to sustainable business practices elevates our capacity to inspire others. The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is located at 1301 Summit Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, visit