Conservation Luncheon with Frans De Waal: Mama's Last Hug, Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us Abo
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Cocktails and Conservation: Frans de Waal

Conservation Luncheon with Frans De Waal: Mama's Last Hug, Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves

Join Margo McKnight, President & CEO of the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society at a special event in the Zoo’s Award-Winning Cocktails & Conservation Lecture Series, distinguished primatologist, Frans B. M. de Waal, Ph. D., will speak on animal emotions, expressions and behavior.

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in Partnership with

11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Enjoy a champagne lunch & up-close animal encounters in the exotic Tropical Safari Pavilion.
For event access, please enter through the Zoo’s front gates.

Event Chairs

Dale Coudert • Tucker Frederickson • Andi Phipps
Sharma & Paul Schacknow • Marilyn Swillinger
Ticket Information

Palm Beach Zoo Members and Students with valid ID $35
Non-Members: $50, includes Zoo entry for the day

VIP Premier Seating: $100 • VIP Table of 10: $1,000

  • Includes 11:30a.m. meet and greet with Frans de Waal

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World-renowned Dutch primatologist and ethologist, Franciscus Bernardus Maria “Frans” de Waal, is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Department of Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory, and author of numerous books including Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape. His research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution, cooperation, inequity aversion, and foodsharing.
He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Mama’s Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions 

The book title pays homage to Mama, the alpha female of a famous chimpanzee colony on a forested island at Burgers’ Zoo, the Netherlands. Mama died at the age of 59. Her last hug with Professor Jan van Hooff went viral on the Internet. I will discuss their encounter.

I will review evidence for animal emotions, starting with primate facial expressions. These expressions are sometimes described as grimaces -- misled by the apes in Hollywood movies, who are trained to pull weird faces -- but primates have an incredible variety of expressions that are as meaningful to them as our own expressions are to us. They laugh when tickled, pout when disappointed, and stare with a frown when angry.
Charles Darwin concluded long ago that if apes use expressions similar to ours under similar circumstances, the underlying emotions are probably similar, too. 

Feelings behind emotions are harder to know, however. In humans, we often get our information from language, a somewhat questionable source. With animals we don’t have this luxury, hence feelings remain inaccessible. But the emotions themselves are visible and measurable as they are expressed in the body and lead to behavioral changes. Animal emotions have become a respectable topic of study. 

All of our emotions can be found one way or another in other species. The whole idea that there is just a handful of “basic” or “primary” emotions (fear, anger, joy), and that all other emotions (jealousy, guilt, love, hope) are uniquely human doesn’t make sense. Emotions are like organs. We possess not a single organ that is unique to us. Similarly, although we have emotions that go deeper or are more varied than in other species, none of them is entirely new. I’ll discuss empathy and disgust as examples.

Pre-registration required. 

For questions about the event, please contact Laurie Steele at 561.533.0887 x253 or

The Palm Beach Zoo Leadership Lecture series is in its sixth year of bringing leaders in conservation to the Palm Beach area to discuss important topics impacting wildlife and the natural world. 


Other Lectures in the Series

 Wednesday, Feb 19, 2020
 6:00 PM - 08:00 PM

Blue Mind: How Being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make You Happier and Healthier



Wallace J. Nichols, PhD., CA Academy of Sciences, Co-founder Ocean Revolution

Through his work, J advocates for a deeper connection with nature and inventive solutions to pressing issues.  J knows that inspiration comes sometimes through adventures, or simply by walking and talking. Other times through writing, images, and art. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires.  J’s research and expeditions have taken him to coasts and waterways across North, Central and South America, to Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe where he continually finds that the emotional connection to waters of all kinds–is what keeps his colleagues and collaborators working hard to understand and restore our blue planet.



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 Thursday, Mar 19, 2020
 6:00 PM - 08:00 PM

Saving the Swallow-tailed Kites

Join Margo McKnight, President and CEO of the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, for a very special presentation on the Swallow-tailed Kites and the work Palm Beach Zoo is doing to monitor the local roost sites of the kites.


You are invited to Palm Beach Zoo's 2020 Conservation Leadership Lecture Series, generously supported by presenting sponsor Bank of America. The lecture will occur from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Zoo’s Tropics Café. Guests are invited to enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and zoo animal encounters from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. before lecture presentations.



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Seating for the Conservation Leadership Lecture Series is limited.  For more information email