It’s dating with a difference at Whipsnade Zoo, where some of the Zoo’s animal couples, including some ‘punk pigs’ and giraffes with bad table manners, have been treated to heart-shaped dinners this Valentine’s Day.
Zookeepers at the UK’s largest Zoo have been doing some matchmaking, preparing heart-shaped meals for some of the Zoo’s Endangered reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) and Critically Endangered Visayan warty pigs (Sus cebifrons), who are part of European endangered species breeding programmes.
Giraffes, 11-year-old Bashu and seven-year-old Luna, were given their favourite meal of willow and cotoneaster branches, woven together to form a romantic heart garland. Meanwhile, Manny and Pixie, two Visayan warty pigs (sometimes known as ‘punk pigs’ because of their spiky, long manes), were presented with a heart-shaped platter of carrots, sweet potatoes and apples.
Team leader Donovan Glyn said: “Valentine’s Day is for everyone, and while it’s vital for us to bring together our elegant, Endangered giraffes for the conservation of their species, we care just as much about our lesser-known and Critically Endangered Visayan warty pigs.
“For our male pig Manny, this is tantamount to his first date. He’s young and is still working out what to do with the ladies. His tusks are starting to come through, and he’s beginning to grow the spiky ‘punk hairstyle’ that male Visayan warty pigs are known for. Although fairly small now, as a male, he will grow twice as heavy as Pixie in time.
“Giraffe dating is a bit different to ours. When a male giraffe wants to mate, he brushes her bottom with his nose to encourage her to urinate. When she does, he tastes the urine for hormones, to work out whether she is ovulating. It’s maybe not what a human would look for in a date, but it certainly gets the job done!
“Many of Whipsnade Zoo’s 10,000 animals are part of vital, conservation breeding programmes. Hopefully our ‘romantic dinners’ will encourage our animals to get to know each other better, and if we are lucky, we will hear the pitter-patter of tiny hooves in the not-so-distant future!”
Visitors can see Manny and Pixie, Bashu and Luna, as well as elephants, rhinos and thousands more animals, this half-term at Whipsnade Zoo.