“The idea is to invite people who have a natural affinity for animals — and have checkbooks to match their love of the animals,” explained Kimsey. The two-legged VIPs got up close and personal with the exotic animals, hand-raised by the Columbus Zoo to travel around the country for education and conservation programs — and help raise money for local zoos.
The National Zoo, facing budget cuts from the sequestration, is looking to beef up the coffers for its’ 125th anniversary next year. To that end, the board is looking for more deep-pocket private donors. “We have been dependent on the American taxpayer for a lot of our budget,” Zoo Director Dennis Kelly told the crowd. “We need to grow like a great university.”
Then he introduced Moya, who joined the party after dinner. The three-year-old cheetah plopped down on a table just a few feet from the other guests and began to purr loudly (think Italian race car) while his handlers took questions. Nothing to fear, they explained: Unlike lions and tigers, cheetahs don’t see humans as prey because they’re too big.
Moya is so tame that he posed for individual pictures with all the guests — who quickly cleared out shortly after the cat and his handlers called it a night. “When the cheetah leaves,” shrugged Jim Garrity, “the party’s over.”
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