Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Actually, it was lemurs and eagles and gators, oh boy!

Midway’s family night rang loudly with squeals, caws and purrs as some of the world most amazing exotic animals took over the ship’s hangar deck.

“Having the opportunity to be so close to exotic animals allows you to get a sense of their personality and see what makes them special,” said Katie Anderson, Midway’s guest service manager. “Getting to feel an alligator’s skin and admire a bald eagle’s stature from just feet away gives you a greater appreciation for the animal kingdom.”

More than 300 Midway staff, volunteers and their families had the unique opportunity to meet animals that most people would ever have the chance to see in the wild.

Conservation Ambassadors, a rescue zoo and animal sanctuary in Paso Robles, provides a permanent, loving home for displaced, abused, abandoned or permanently injured wild and exotic animals. Their educational outreach programs connect the public to these animals which helps inspire them to protect the planet.

“This was the first time we’ve ever done one of our animal conservation presentations on a naval ship,” said David Jackson, founder and CEO of Conservation Ambassadors. “What a treat it was to meet everyone on the Midway. It was the best time we’ve all had in years and years.”

Midway curator David Hanson and his new best-friend-forever, Bicari, a ring-tailed lemur.

David and his team presented a wide array of animals including a ring-tailed lemur named Bicari; Spike, an eight-foot American alligator; a bald eagle named Glory; Sophia, a regal-looking Eurasian eagle-owl; and Tarzan, a playful seven-month-old red kangaroo. David also had special animal guest named Route, a tiny seven-week-old capuchin monkey that he and his team rescued and are now hand-raising.

“Having the lemur encounter was especially great, as they are a favorite animal of mine ever since I took a course in primatology from the San Diego Zoo back when I was in high school,” said David Hanson, the museum’s curator. “I love lemurs because they are like a cross between a cat and a monkey.”

Over the past 25 years, Conservation Ambassadors has educated more than 1 million students and others all over the country through animal presentations from California to Florida to Texas. Their presentation on Midway heavily emphasized animal conservation and environmental protection.

“We’re all connected in our world, so sharing our animals with as many people as possible, especially kids, is essential,” said Lisa Jackson, Conservation Ambassadors’ assistant director. “The folks from the Midway, and their kids, had a great time learning about how critical taking care of the environment is to the survival of these important animal species. This is what it’s all about.”

“The presentation showed me that rehabilitation and conservation works,” said Emily Duncan, one of Midway’s event sales and service managers. “Humans sometimes go to extremes to save our wildlife, but these efforts work and this is why we are able to have these incredible animals with us today.”

Any educator will tell you the best way to learn is to have fun. Family night not only brought out perpetual smiles but also drew the Midway crew closer together.

“Our front-line staff and volunteers work year-round to bring Midway Magic to our guests,” said Katie. “It was rewarding to see them bring their friends and family to an event that allowed them unique access to animals. All of the happy faces that evening were proof that animals are a great source of joy and comfort.”

Midway event sales and service manager Emily Duncan with Tarzan, a red kangaroo.

“Having this opportunity to come together to enjoy each other’s presence, meet our families, and learn about some of the world’s most incredible animals made for a wonderful evening,” said Emily.

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