Wild About You At The Erie Zoo
It’s Official! (The Couples of the Erie Zoo)
Mimi & Max
Our North American River Otters (NARO), Mimi & Max, are otterly obsessed with each other! Between their habitual grooming sessions, daily pool playtime, and nightly nest-building rituals, you could consider these two to be nearly inseparable. Mimi & Max were not always lovers, however, Mimi once had anotter otter in her life—Scooter. But her keeper claims that she has taken quite a liking for Max, a kind of liking that she had never seen with her and Scooter! It may be because Max is quite the romantic—in the wild, the female NARO typically are the ones that build a nightly nest for their partner. However, here at the Erie Zoo, Max takes it upon himself to be sure that he and Mimi have a soft place to lay each night by taking the hay and straw from one area and moving it into their sleeping quarters, where they snuggle up together. NARO are known to be rather playful animals, and that remains true for this couple. They pass the day by swimming in their pool and playing with their enrichment, and at this time of the year, you can find them catching snowflakes in their mouths!
Darla & Alfie
Snug as a Visayan Warty Pig in a tub! Is that how the saying goes?
Darla & Alfie have been smitten for nearly 4 years now at the Erie Zoo. They spend much of their time lounging together in their plastic tub, in the hay of their indoor enclosure, or perhaps in a soft spot they created in the earth (as seen in this photo). Darla loves to create a soft bed of hay for her partner, Alfie, to lay in. But, we have a sneaking suspicion that she too enjoys the comfy snuggle experience it provides! She does, however, go above and beyond for her partner and buries him in the hay to ensure maximum relaxation. Alfie has a few tricks up his sleeve as well—during mating season he grows out his piggy locks into a quite majestic, long, blue Mohawk to wow his other half!
Dandy & Dee
They sing, play, swing, and have even raised a family together! Dandy & Dee are our Siamang Gibbon prime mates here at the Erie Zoo. You often can find them cozied up to one another grooming each other with affection. Through research, scientists have found that these species form pairs and they actually strengthen their bond through the songs they sing together! You can witness this couple’s duet in action throughout the day here at the zoo, it is also natural instinct that siamangs have in order to threaten predators and claim their territory. Dandy & Dee are also known for how good they are at breeding—in fact, they have been so successful that they are not only parents but are lucky enough to be grandparents as well!
Other Zoo Couples
These couples are not the only love birds here at their Erie Zoo—in addition to these three, we have a pair of agoutis, Trudi and Vivo, who have an old kind of love. We also have Summer and Cody, a couple of servals that have been matched by the serval Species Survival Plan. It is our hope as well as the SSP’s that their pairing could some day bring us kittens, aiding in their species’ survival and in the fight against endangerment and extinction!
We also have many penguin couples, who live their lives monogamously here at the zoo. Maddy and Manny, our Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, are quite the happy couple, and the parents to three healthy young lemurs, born in 2020! The zoo has literal love birds amongst the rainbow lorikeets, and Wellington and Pearl, our wallabies just welcomed their first baby in 2022! Brando and Stella, the Patagonian Cavies are also parents and lifelong partners!
How to Talk to Women (The Many Styles of Courtship)
In the animal kingdom, there are many different styles of courtship. Some animals are able to completely change their appearance in order to attract a mate, others may perform a special song or dance, and there are even some animals that sacrifice themselves in the name of love. Many of these rituals can come off as cruel, crude, and even heartless to us humans, but to them, it’s just another day in the life of a single animal!
Here at the Erie Zoo, we experience many different variations of courtship—the Bearded Dragon for example starts their ritual by quickly bobbing their heads at their potential partner. The males flare out their beards to make them look larger and even change to a darker hue of brown or black!
Patagonian Cavies are monogamous, choosing one partner for life, however, their courtship is quite odd to us but normal to their species and others like them (i.e. porcupines, rabbits, hares). Of all things they use their urine to prove that they are a worthy mate and if the fragrance is right a female will choose their mate, making for quite the “how I met your mother” story.
Urine is actually a love language of a range of animals, including many big cat species, such as the Canadian Lynx, Amur Tigers, and Amur Leopards! Throughout the majority of the year these big cats live in solitude. But when mating season comes around they use their urine in hopes of both attracting a mate and marking their territory. Big cats typically become very active and during mating season you will find them rubbing up against things in their environment to scent mark. Some big cats, like the Amur Tiger, will chuff, which is a special vocalization they use while they are in heat to vocalize their need for a little affection.
Rhinos take an alternative route and the males start their courtships by utilizing their dung to both send a signal to the ladies in the area and let the other males know whose territory they are in. Once a female is receptive and available, males then get even more competitive, resulting in a fight breaking out. Male rhinoceros will spar, which can be agressive and even cause injury. Once the female rhino has selected her ideal candidate she will start to vocalize a whistling-like sound. This is to let the male know that he has been chosen and warn other females to back off her man! Then things get intense again—they start the final part of their ritual, called the “bluff and bluster” where the couple actively chases each other for hours! This chase often turns into sparing as well, leading to minor or sometimes major injuries, but once the bluff and buster comes to an end, the couple finally seals the deal in copulation!
Eligible Bachelors & Bachelorettes
Although many of the Erie Zoo’s animal residents have found love, there are still a few eligible bachelors and bachelorettes that are still searching for their other half. Hunter, the Canadian Lynx, is a prime example of an eligible bachelor—he’s a young, active, and handsome boy, and rumor has it he is on the market, seeking a future with a lady lynx in it.
The two new red panda brothers, Lucas and Micah, are part of their own Species Survival Plan where someday they will be paired with their ideal genetic mates, potentially at another zoo, in an effort to repopulate and aid in their species’ survival.
We are often asked about our newly 6-year-old orangutan Otis and the future of his love life. For now, all the love he needs he gets from his mother, Dasa. One day he will mature and reach breeding age and there could potentially be a lady in his future. For now, all we can do is wait for the love story to come to light through the years, like many of us are or have.
Love is never easy, and that goes for both the animals and the humans. For some, it can nearly kill you to put yourself out there! In the end, it’s all worth it to have a soft place to snuggle, someone to sing with, and who knows, maybe you could even be the ticket to saving your species!