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


Changing Planet

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn