Each year, the Indianapolis Zoo holds a formal fundraiser for the purpose of providing financial assistance for more than 1200 animals and tens of thousands of plants that are part of the Zoo complex. The first celebration happened slightly more than 30 years ago, in the home of a well known local philanthropist, where several hundred guests helped fund the zoo.
The event has continued to grow – in 2017, more than 5000 people helped raise more than $2.4 million for the conservation effort to help save animals. Much of the funding stays local, but the total outreach is global. It’s quite a lavish event and many folks who attend the public part of the evening dress in animal costumes and listen to a variety of bands that play throughout the grounds, while they choose food from more than 75 restaurants that are represented for their cuisine.
There are several other parts of the complex. In the addition to the zoo, there is a dolphin gallery, a butterfly pavilion and a beautiful wedding garden. In fact, I have performed numerous weddings in the butterfly pavilion and in the wedding garden – probably more than 75 weddings total. One of the odd things about the wedding garden is the fact that when the officiant stands up in front, the angle of the front wall is such that you can actually hear the barking of the seals from the zoo, even though it is more than several blocks to their location!
The butterfly area is filled with plants and a three story enclosure. It can get ghastly hot in there during the summer months and the guests must stand on the catwalk up above and look down on the wedding party. It is quite a special place – except for the time that it was 103 degrees during the ceremony!
There is quite a difference of opinion as to whether zoos are necessary or not. It isn’t quite the same as the backlash against circuses, but it is, nonetheless, an area of serious social debate. One one hand, breeding programs and conservations efforts are designed to help reduce the extinction of more species and to learn more about how to care for animals and the environment they live in. On the other hand, many people believe that all animals should be free and that it is not natural for animals to live in the artificial exhibits created in zoos.
Whatever your belief on this subject, it is noteworthy that the first zoo in the world opened 225 years ago today – on June 11, 1793. And zoos have come a long way since then. In fact, the Indianapolis Zoo has changed locations and upgraded its grounds since we moved here in the early 1980’s.
God gave man dominion over the animals back during the creation process in the beginning of Genesis. Adam was given the authority to name each animal and back in the day, this meant that the responsibility for the animals was given to him by God. That edict, in addition to the responsibility to care for the environment, were very important to God; and should be important to us.
Our verse for this evening highlights the passage where God entrusted the animals to Man. We are told, in Genesis 2:19-20, “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.”
My encouragement this evening is that God delights in our success when we focus on taking care of the animals and the environment. My prayer is that we will take care of God’s creation – after all, it was made for our benefit and it is something that we didn’t inherit from our ancestors as much as something that we have borrowed from our children. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…