Why ‘The Zookeeper’ Shouldn’t Listen to Animal Advice About Love

In the new film Zookeeper, Kevin James stars as a bumbling zookeeper who seeks relationship advice from his closest friends—the animals.

Different animals at the zoo take turns giving their view on how to get the girl. But do these cinematic animals know what they’re talking about? We talked to Paul Sherman, a professor in Cornell University’s department of neurobiology and behavior, Bob Montgomerie, a biologist from Queen’s University, and Patricia Adair Gowaty, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA, to get the truth about animal mating. Here’s a look at the animals’ advice in the movie, and whether or not it holds up:

Claim: The capuchin monkey says to “throw poop at her.”

Reality Check: This is not a technique monkeys use to attract mates, though recent studies show that male monkeys try to attract females by urinating on themselves.

Claim: The bears advise James to stand up tall and roar.

Reality Check: The loudness of a bear’s roar can indicate healthiness. So roaring loudly could help attract a mate, since the goal of mating, after all, is to produce healthy offspring.

Claim: The wolf suggests that James “mark his territory” as a way to impress a female.

Reality Check: Animals do mark their territory, but this technique is rarely used in mating. Because urine leaves a distinct scent, various animals, including wolves, will urinate on an area to signal to others to “keep away.”

Claim: The lioness says that the best way to attract a female is to be seen with another female.

Reality Check:
Male lions typically hang out with many other females—but not to make that Special Someone jealous. Female lions live in group called a pride, usually along with one or two male lions. The males will mate with various members of the group.

Claim: A member of the zoo staff tells James that when eagles pick a mate, they lock talons and spin around.

Reality Check: This actually is true. Eagles and other birds of prey, when they have found a mate, will fly next to each other and then one will flip over and lock talons with the other, and for about five to 10 seconds the two birds will be flying, one upside down, clinging to each other. Scientists suspect this is a way for the birds to assess their potential mate’s health — if the male is strong enough to fly upside down for a few seconds, then he’s probably a sound choice for a mate.

-Alexandra Tilsley