Toast to Conservation

November 17, 2018
6:00 pm

Please join us as we celebrate our second annual Toast to Conservation event!

Toast to Conservation raises funding and awareness of the local and global conservation programs supported by the Zoo. Since 2013, the Zoo has dedicated a small portion of gate admission to conservation, totaling over $1 million to field conservation projects.


Building upon the inaugural Toast to Conservation event in 2017, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens introduces our first-time Champion of Conservation Award. This award recognizes an individual within our community who is dedicated to championing conservation both locally and around the world.


We are pleased to present


with this year’s


Featuring Special Guest Speakers

Sonya Kahlenberg, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center

Dr. Sonya Kahlenberg is the Executive Director of the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center also known as GRACE. GRACE is the world's only sanctuary for Grauer's gorillas, a Critically Endangered subspecies only found in war-torn Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Grauer's gorillas have suffered a catastrophic population decline of nearly 80% in the past 20 years, largely due to poaching exacerbated by insecurity and humanitarian crises in the region. GRACE provides rehabilitative care for gorillas orphaned by poaching and is breaking new ground by planning the first reintroduction back into the wild for this subspecies. In 2019, GRACE will also be the first sanctuary to lead a census of wild gorillas. GRACE has a major conservation education and behavior change focus as well and partners with local communities to implement conservation actions to protect wild gorilla habitat. Under Kahlenberg's direction, GRACE has grown into an internationally recognized gorilla organization and has won accolades for its work. A primatologist by training, Kahlenberg received her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University in 2006. Prior to becoming GRACE's first Executive Director in 2013, she was a professor, a researcher studying the behavioral ecology of wild chimpanzees, and also worked for 15 years on great ape conservation initiatives in Africa and Asia, including directing an anti-poaching program in Uganda.



Claudine André

Founder, Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary

Claudine Andre grew up in Congo and has lived there her entire life. In 2002, Claudine founded Lola ya Bonobo just outside of Kinshasa which is the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The sanctuary represents the first and only sanctuary in the world dedicated to protecting bonobos. Claudine and her staff have become the world’s experts in the rescue and rehabilitation of bonobos orphaned by the bushmeat trade. She now has over 70 rescued bonobos for which Lola ya Bonobo provide lifetime care. In 2009 Claudine conducted the first successful release of bonobos back into the wild. Over two dozen bonobos from Lola ya Bonobo now live freely again. They are thriving together in group in Ekolo ya Bonobo, a preserve three times the size of Manhattan that Claudine has worked tirelessly to create and protect. Together with Dominique Morel, Claudine helped found the US NGO that helps support her efforts for Bonobos.

Claudine’s reach extends beyond her sanctuary to the rest of Congo, tirelessly working to educate the Congolese of the preciousness of the endangered bonobo, and the danger and cruelty of eating bushmeat. Here education efforts reach over 50,000 children, governmental officials, and civil servants each year that visit Lola ya Bonobo. She is largely responsible for raising the status of bonobos in Congo from being totally unknown to one of the most beloved animals in the minds of the Congolese. To reach an international audience Claudine has published books for children and adults about bonobos, documentaries and a major feature length film called “Beni: back to the wild”. She also frequently presents at conferences all over the world, raising awareness for bonobos and ensuring the protection of their future.

Claudine has received numerous awards for her efforts to protect bonobos including the National Order of Merit by France and the Prince Laurent Prize of the Environment by Belgium. These are the highest civilian awards given by each of these countries. She is always inspiring others with her love of bonobos but also her compassion for people – especially the thousands of Congolese children she reaches each year.



Tickets and Potential Sponsors

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To purchase, or to learn more, please contact Janet Wesley, 904.757.4463 ext 210 or