APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — For Valentine’s Day, many will opt for flowers, candy or a nice dinner.
But there’s a steamier option in a place not usually associated with romance.
The Minnesota Zoo offers the annual Love Tour, which it describes as an “R-rated event.”
It’s a chance for adults to have dinner, sip champagne and stroll through the zoo, learning intimate details about its residents.
Becky Duchild is one of several animal experts leading the tours.
“We don’t want to get vulgar with it, of course,” Duchild said. “It’s all fun, but it’s true stories of the animal reproductive world.”
For example, there’s the tapir — a large mammal resembling a pig that sometimes causes parents to cover their children’s eyes when it gets aroused.
“The biggest thing with the tapir is how well-endowed the males are,” Duchild said.
Also on the zoo’s Tropics Trail are female lemurs who only have only one or two days a year in which they’re in estrus. That means the males battle it out for mating rights.
“And so when they’re kind of competing to figure out which males are the most dominant, they’ll engage in stink fights,” she said. “They have scent glands on their wrists, and so what they’ll do is they’ll take those long tails between their wrists and they’ll get them really nice and stinky. In this case, I guess the stinkier the better.”
Duchild is an aquarist at the zoo, which means her specialty is fish.
“If you’re going to see fish mating, they have a little dance they do up into the water,” Duchild said. “So they’ll kind of swim up together and release their gametes, and then it’s done.”
A female tiger shark in the zoo’s aquarium is currently missing part of a fin, which is a tell-tale sign of mating activity.
“The males will bite onto the pectoral fin or side fin of the female and they hang onto her that way while trying to breed with her,” Duchild said.
In 2014, there were 169 births at the Minnesota Zoo. On Valentine’s night, visitors will learn the many ways that happens.
“And that’s what we really hope to kind of educate people with these tours is to show them there’s lots of different ways to reproduce,” Duchild said. “There’s lots of different ways to raise young, and there’s lots of different ways to get in the mood in the animal world.”
The Love Tour, at $180 a couple, includes a full dinner, with proceeds going toward conservation programs.
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