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Love Looms Large at the Zoo

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Photo credit: Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo introduced its newest member, a male red panda, Tate (right), to female Shama (left) this week.

Tate recently arrived from the Cape May Zoo in New Jersey, a zoo statement said. “After a day’s acclimation to the exhibit, Tate was introduced to one-and-a-half year-old Shama and immediately exhibited breeding behavior.A birth for this pair would be significant for the Zoo — red pandas are endangered and breed only once a year,” the zoo said.

A relative of both the giant panda and the raccoon, the red panda is a member of its own unique family — the Ailuridae. Its natural range is the mountains of Nepal, Myanmar, and central China.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo celebrated Valentine’s Day today with “Woo at the Zoo,” a “light-hearted exploration into the sexual behaviors of animals.”

Presentations by animal experts were to feature a scientific (“yet entertaining”) look at the more remarkable animal facts on reproduction, choosing mates and raising families, the Zoo said.

“Whether covered in fur, feathers or scales, from courtship to consummation, you will be amazed to learn that many species indulge in unimaginably exotic romantic rituals,”  said Brandie Smith, senior curator of animals.   


Photo of sloth bears courtesy Smithsonian’s National Zoo

I am constantly amazed by the rituals of animals. I selected a few exotic rituals from stories covered by National Geographic News in recent years:

Sexy Beasts: Valentine’s Day Gone Wild