San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Wins Sweepstakes Trophy in 135th Rose Parade®

| January 6, 2024 | 0 Comments

On January 1, 2024 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance participated in the 135th Rose Parade® presented by Honda with a float celebrating the San Diego Zoo’s 107-year history. The float themed “It Began With a Roar” depicted iconic wildlife from the Zoo, including Rex the lion, whose mighty roar sparked a dream more than a century ago and inspired the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.

The San Diego Zoo’s float won top honor with the Sweepstakes Trophy given for the most beautiful entry, encompassing float design, floral presentation, and entertainment. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance worked in collaboration with Artistic Entertainment Services to design and build the float. Hundreds of Alliance team members and volunteers worked for weeks putting in countless hours each day to help decorate the award-winning float.

“We are humbled and honored to receive the Sweepstakes Trophy, but more importantly, we are grateful the Rose Parade allows San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance an opportunity to share our conservation message with a global audience,” said Paul A. Baribault, president and chief executive officer, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.”

Diving in at the front of the San Diego Zoo’s float was Chinook the polar bear, designed after Chinook at the San Diego Zoo. The largest bears on Earth, these marine mammals face sizeable challenges caused by climate change. Collaborating with international partners, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is developing groundbreaking methods to save diminishing populations across the Arctic while protecting denning mothers and their vulnerable cubs—offering future generations of polar bears a second chance through conservation.

Perched high in a tree, koalas Omeo and Cynthia swayed back and forth while crunching on fragrant eucalyptus leaves. Omeo lost his mother to cancer when he was a few months old and would never have survived without the dedication, commitment, and around-the-clock care of veterinarians and wildlife care specialists from the San Diego Zoo.

Reaching her arm out, Karen the orangutan reminded parade viewers that every moment can bring new possibilities. Born with a large hole in her heart, she was the first orangutan in the world to undergo open-heart surgery. As an infant facing extraordinary challenges, Karen’s strength and bravery—along with first-of-its-kind care—were vital to her successful recovery.

Fluttering on the end of Karen’s hand, a Quino checkerspot butterfly flapped its delicate wings. This endangered pollinator is only found in Baja and Southern California. For the first time in 20 years, thousands are being reintroduced back into native habitats by San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance entomology experts.

Stretching toward the warm morning sun, Grandma, a 137-year-old Galápagos tortoise, was joined by a flamboyance of flamingoes along the water’s edge. Through them, we get a glimpse into the lush landscapes and more than 2 million individual plants representing close to 13,000 specimens and close to 7,000 species cared for by dedicated teams of horticulturists at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.

Atop the 55-foot float, standing along a ridge of cascading waterfalls, was Rex the lion. His regal roar reverberated, and his spirit was felt by generations of wildlife allies and conservationists around the world. Riding on the float with his family was Matt Akel, who first visited the San Diego Zoo with his parents when he was 10 years old. That moment sparked a love for wildlife and a lifelong commitment to global conservation. For the past 21 years, Matt has had the honor of caring for wildlife at the San Diego Zoo—including Chinook, Omeo, Karen, and countless others—while saving and protecting endangered species worldwide. From Rex the lion, who ignited a conservation dream more than a century ago, to the miraculous heartbeat of Karen the orangutan, every life-changing moment at the San Diego Zoo celebrates the symphony of nature—and it all began with a roar.

The San Diego Zoo’s float won top honor with the Sweepstakes Trophy given for the most beautiful entry, encompassing float design, floral presentation, and entertainment.

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Category: Animals, Art, Donations, Entertainment, Events, Historical, Local News, National News, Nonprofit, Plants

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