Monday, June 12, 2017

Life in the concrete jungle

Looking south along the Great Lawn in Central Park. 12:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, June 12, 2017. Soaring temperatures into the night 90s arrived on Sunday morning after a pleasantly warm weekend.

Last Thursday night, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hosted its annual Gala at the Central Park Zoo. They honored Julian Robertson and George Schaller, with more than 500 attending. This year’s Gala was themed Big Cats. WCS has more staff and works in more locations than any other organization in Big Cat conservation. Why the Big Cat? In the past century, wild tigers have gone from 100,000 to a mere 3,400. Lions numbered more than a half million in 1950. Less than seven decades later only 30,000 remain in the wild today.
This year’s Gala was themed Big Cats.
Smoked salmon hor d'oeuvres cut into the shape of " big cats."
Under the tent for dinner.
Mr. Robertson is the legendary founder of the hedge fund Tiger Management. In his philanthropy he has long focused on environmental causes, drawing attention to threats to iconic species and climate change. His dedication to tiger conservation has helped these majestic creatures prosper in the wild.

He supported the creation of Tiger Mountain at WCS’s Bronx Zoo which has introduced millions to the wonders of big cats. He loved telling the guests about his trips with his grandchild up to Tiger Mountain. The granddaughter’s enthusiasm revealed the deep impression it is making on her, allowing grandfather to consider that his work will continue in succeeding generations.
Cristian Samper introduces the two honorees.
Julian Robertson. George Schaller.
George Schaller is a kind of legend in the field of conservation, known all over the world as a leader in wildlife research and conservation. He has traveled the globe since the 1950s in association with WCS, conducting landmark studies that have deepened humanity’s understanding of a multitude of species including lions, snow leopards, tigers, and jaguars. Schaller’s work on big cats has shaped wildlife protection efforts around the world and inspired a new generation of conservationists. 

Now a man in his 83rd year, when accepting his honor, he talked about his life as photographer in conservation. Always accompanied by his wife on his travels, he told the guests that his wife, experiencing the great pleasure of his work once asked: “When are you going to get a real job?”

Mr. Schaller is a wiry looking man who while not tall, stands erect and radiates enthusiasm for his lifetime work. You can see the rewards on his presence and in his words. The video we were shown about him gives the distinct impression of a life well lived, as does his presence.
WCS CEO Cristian Samper told the guests: “Julian Robertson and George Schaller — who have left an indelible mark on big cat conservation — and whose work speaks to their extraordinary leadership and to the important role WCS has played in conservation over the course of its 122-year history.”

WCS also runs the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and New York Aquarium and runs conservation field programs in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans. It also runs the world’s largest field programs for great ape, elephant, and tiger conservation and protects many of the world’s most threatened terrestrial and marine landscapes.
WCS Chair Antonia Grumbach and Cristian Samper presents the award to George Schaller.
The black tie evening began at 6:30 with a cocktail reception around the sea lion pool featuring big cat-themed d├ęcor by Lewis Miller Designs. This was followed at 8 by a seated dinner prepared by Peter Callahan Catering. It was one of those evenings when the speeches were brief, informative, and enjoyable.

The main part of the evening was over by 9:30 — one of the secrets of the WCS gala’s success. Then dancing continued under the stars with the younger crowd attending the popular afterparty, WCS After Dark and music by DJ Luther Riggs. NIRAV MODI, the global luxury diamond jeweler and haut diamantaire, was the Featured Sponsor of both the gala and the afterparty.
Kelly Stephens, Alexandra Moncure, Nicole Savery, Sarah Belz, Lauren Junge, Dominique Grelsamer, and Jenna Shipman.
Kyle Cooke and Amanda Batula.
DJ Luther Riggs.
Among the guests: World-famous photographer and artist Peter Beard, Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie (co-chairs), Alexandra and Alex Robertson (co-chairs), Kitty and Stephen Sherrill (co-chairs), Lisa and David Schiff (vice chairs), Christian Simonds (vice chair), Leonard and Allison Stern (vice chairs), Melanie and John Wambold (vice chairs), Scott Schiff (gala leadership), Tony and Amie James, Alecta Hill, Boo Grace.

For more information about the Wildlife Conservation Society, visit: www.wcs.org.
Stephanie Hessler, Palmer O'Sullivan, and Melanie Wambold. Tory Gossage, Wendy Day, and Melissa Hawks.
Barbara Tedder, Robin van Bokhorst, and Marisa van Bokhorst.
Elaine and Ken Langone with Nancy Brinker.
Heena and Dhanajay Pai. Allison and Leonard Stern.
Jonathan Cohen and Allison Morrow.
Ingrid and Tom Edelman.
Melanie and John Wambold.
Melissa Hawks, Stephanie Webb, and Wendy Day. Mary Snow.
Peter and Nejma Beard.
Jim Breheny, Kathleen LaMattina, George Schaller, Cristian Samper, Pat Thomas, and Paul Calle.
Stephen Sherrill, Kitty Sherrill, and William Sherrill.
Allison Stern and George Schaller.
Ambassador Peter Thomson, Marijcke Thomson, Cristian Samper, and Adriana Casas.
Cristian Samper, Julian Robertson, Antonia Grumbach, and George Schaller.
Eugene McGrath and family.
Hillary North and Bert Calix.
Katie Dolan and Jim Breheny.
Walter Sedgwick and Cristian Samper.
Alexandra Robertson, Julian Robertson, Alex Robertson.
Dale Miquelle, Julian Robertson, Ullas Karanth, and Cristian Samper.
Dr. William Conway and David Schiff.

Photographs by Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com & Julie Larsen Maher (WCS)

Contact DPC here.