The Gladys Porter Zoo hosted its annual Zoofari fundraiser on Oct. 2, which included live and silent auctions.

This year’s Zoofari event was a Golden Gala that honored the zoo’s 50th anniversary. It was also the most successful Zoofari fundraiser to date, raising over half a million dollars for the Gladys Porter Zoo, zoo officials stated in a media release.

The funds raised will put the Brownsville zoo one step closer to recovering from the difficult year it had in 2020. In March 2020, the zoo was forced to close its gates amid efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, the release said. This was the first time the zoo had been closed since it opened in 1971.

The zoo re-opened to the public in June 2020 but was still not back to its regular operating hours and only allowed visitors on the weekends. Being closed during the busiest season of the year was a major loss in revenue for the zoo, which operates as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, according to the release. The lion’s share of the zoo’s revenue comes from visitor sales.

Those in attendance at the fundraising event were able to bid in both a live and silent auction. Among the live auction items available were various naming opportunities for baby animals, including a Western lowland gorilla, a pygmy hippo, and a giraffe. Another big draw was the raffle which boasted a grand prize of a 2021 Ford Bronco Sport. The raffle alone raised over $90,000.

Since opening in 1971, the Gladys Porter Zoo has been dedicated to the conservation and preservation of nature. The zoo is currently home to over 1,500 animals representing over 350 different species. Guest favorites include the zoo’s four generations of endangered Western lowland gorillas and the Giraffe Landing Feeding Experience.