Zoo's anti-rabies program attracts local donations, big and small

Lincoln Park ZooTanzania

Drink lemonade, save a lion.

That, more or less, was the pitch made by two Gold Coast kids who set up a beverage stand on their front porch during this year's Air and Water Show to benefit the Lincoln Park Zoo's anti-rabies program near Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.

Deven Esselman, 9, and his sister, Ava, 7, made a sign that said, “Support vaccinations in the Serengeti, Serengeti Health Initiative,” added a zoo logo and affixed it to the front of the coffee table from which they sold fresh-squeezed lemonade at $2 a glass.

Deven “has been obsessed with animals” since 4, when he visited the Serengeti, one of the world's great wildlife reserves, said his father, education consultant David Esselman.

Attending camp at the zoo this summer, he learned about the Serengeti project and became “really clear about doing (the lemonade stand) and, frankly, he had to convince his sister that it was important to give any of the money away,” Esselman said.

Refreshment seekers who were curious about the cause got to hear the story from the Esselman kids. And the zoo got an unexpected donation of $100 (plus a matching gift from their parents).

Meanwhile, from the North Shore, Dr. Susan Sherman has backed the program in a more conventional manner. She’s a veterinarian and a zoo board member, and the project’s combination of human and animal health benefits appealed to her.

“This struck me as a success story ... Our little Lincoln Park Zoo is impacting the world,” Sherman said, explaining why she has contributed “substantial” funding to the project.

The zoo is happy to accept both contributions to the Serengeti Health Initiative, which vaccinates domestic dogs against rabies in towns adjacent to the park and has been successful in protecting people and park wildlife from deadly viruses.

Kevin Bell, Lincoln Park Zoo's CEO, is pleased not only to save some of the $110,000 the project would have cost the zoo last year, but to have a project that attracts donors.

Sherman, he said, “actually got up at our annual meeting and gave a short presentation” on the project, he said. “Her passion for this is exactly what you hope for.”

And the Esselman kids, their father said, got a face-to-face meeting with Bell, the head zookeeper, a job Deven aspires to someday.

“He’s very committed,” said his father. “He’s really disappointed he can’t work at the zoo until he’s 16.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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