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Category — Animals

More than Plumage Deep: Animal Attraction

Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Education/Wild Encounters

The bright plumage of a peacock is so unmistakable that we use it as a metaphor for showing off to prospective romantic partners. When a male peacock unfurls its brilliant tail feathers, you can’t help but stop and stare. When you walk through the Zoo, you’ll almost certainly encounter one of our male peacocks, crooning his relationship status or proudly displaying his colorful fan. He might even try to distract you from other, less colorful animals, by inserting himself between you and them! (If you’d like to learn the cool way that the structure of the peacock’s feathers produces the glorious colors, check out these findings from 2003.)

Look at me! (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Look at me! (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

It’s spring, which means mating season for many animals, so it’s a great time to notice how animals preen, prance or patter in hopes of propagating their species.

We talked about mating signals during a recent  Zoo Troop session for 6th through 8th graders called “Be Mine.” The students observed birds, fish, and other creatures, learning about physical traits, actions, sounds, and scents that animals use to say, “Relationship Status: Available.”

We giggled a bit at the similarities between the human animal and some of the others out there. Humans choose clothing, hairstyles, perfumes, and workouts often with the goal of attracting a mate. Is a rock star strutting and belting a song so different from a male bird calling to passing females? Are our fashion choices so different from scales or plumage? We even studied the bower bird, which spends weeks building an elaborate “bachelor pad” complete with bling that he painstakingly gathers from his environment. Do you know anyone like that? There’s no doubt, we have a lot in common with wild animals.

John shows off his luxurious mane. (Photo: DJJAM)

John shows off his luxurious mane. (Photo: DJJAM)

An animal’s tools of attraction indicate that animal’s fitness, meaning the quality of its genetic material. Picking a mate who is strong, capable, and beautiful tends to mean their offspring will be the same. A lion with a lush mane is better protected during battles with rivals. A brighter pink flamingo has chowed on more shrimp. Some animals, from spiders to penguins, bring each other gifts, which may demonstrate the hunting prowess needed to feed young.

Lucky for humans, we’re able to see beneath the surface. What if you could only choose a partner based on outward signs or on what might be considered an ideal physical appearance? That would limit your choices considerably, and think of all that you might miss out on. We get to consider a person’s values and personality, likes and dislikes. We also have differing ideas about what is attractive. You might think someone is adorable who your friend finds positively plain.

As you explore the Zoo this spring, notice the mating rituals going on among the animals — even the human ones. Take a minute to consider how we’re alike and different from our fellow residents of planet Earth. And keep an eye out for the results of all this mating… Zoo babies!

One of the cheetah cubs in the Nursery now! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

One of the cheetah cubs in the Nursery now! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

 

May 2, 2016   No Comments

Celebrating Earth Day with a Party for the Planet!

Happy Earth Day! While we encourage our community to be earth-friendly all year round, we’ll take the opportunity to really drive the message home during our 7th annual “Party for the Planet” next Thursday, April 28 from 4-8:30pm. It’s a celebration of the Earth, and a festival for all things “green” in Cincinnati. Businesses and organizations from around the region will be on hand at the Greenest Zoo in America to share their expertise and resources about living more sustainability within our communities. Topics include solar energy, composting, recycling, energy efficiency, green building, rain gardens/barrels, sustainable food, green products, beekeeping, and many more.

Excited to learn how to help our planet! (Photo: Fia Cifuentes)

Excited to learn how to help our planet! (Photo: Fia Cifuentes)

In addition to learning ways to go green, also visit the Go Green Garden for the 4th Annual Rain Barrel Painting Event, hosted by the Cincinnati Zoo, Save Local Waters and the Regional Stormwater Collaborative. Rain barrels are an easy and inexpensive way to conserve water and save money, and for homeowners to take one small action that collectively will have a major impact on our local environment. Local artists have done their part to motivate area homeowners to save rainwater in dazzling beautiful rain barrels. The typical dull green or drab rain barrel has been revamped into a creative and colorful accent piece that will make any homeowner proud to use in their landscaping. Participate in the People’s Choice Award and vote for your favorite painted rain barrel online.

Check out some of the beautifully painted rain barrels that will be up for auction.

Check out some of the beautifully painted rain barrels that will be up for auction.

Guests will be able to bid on their favorite barrels for purchase during a silent auction from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Bids start at $90, increasing by $10. This year, we are also offering a “buy it now” price of $450. Cash, checks, and credit cards will be accepted. All proceeds benefit Save Local Waters and the Cincinnati Zoo for environmental education and sustainability projects.

Party for the Planet takes place during Tunes & Blooms, a weekly concert Thursdays in April, featuring local musicians. It is a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful tulips and other spring flowers the Zoo has planted, listen to some great, local music, learn about ways to go green, and enjoy the spring evening with your family and friends. And, enjoy Zoo Blooms all around.

The Party is free with Zoo admission. Admission to the Zoo is FREE after 5pm and parking is $10.

Even the peacocks love the blooms! (Photo: Deb Simon)

Even the peacocks love the blooms! (Photo: Deb Simon)

April 22, 2016   No Comments

Grow the Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators in Your Own Yard

After more than 25 years of trialing plants, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden knows which plants grow and look best in our region. We’ve narrowed down that list to the plants that most benefit pollinators to create the Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators Plant Series.

Working with local plant growers, we have introduced a Zoo-branded line of plants that are easy-to-grow, beautiful, and pollinator-friendly. Available for purchase at many independent local garden centers, a portion of the proceeds support the Botanical Gardens at the Zoo. Download the list of plants and participating retailers here: Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators.

3D 1quart Zoo's Best 11-23-15(4)

Why plant for pollinators?

Pollinators are beneficial

All of us enjoy the beauty that the many species of butterflies and moths bring to our lives, and we depend on honeybees to pollinate a huge proportion of our food crops. That is just a small part of what pollinators do. Thousands of species of native bees, wasps, and flies ensure reliable pollination throughout the ecosystem so that abundant crops of seeds regenerate wild areas and also provide seeds and fruits for birds and other wildlife to eat. Just as importantly, many pollinating insects also prey upon pest insect species, such as aphids and scale, which ensures a more balanced, healthier garden and ecosystem.

Pollination in progress! (Photo: DJJAM)

Pollination in progress! (Photo: DJJAM)

Pollinators are under pressure

Pollinator numbers are falling due to loss of habitat and other pressures. Your yard can provide valuable habitat to help support healthy populations of pollinators.

Make your yard a thriving oasis for pollinators!

  • Include Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators in your yard to attract and provide for pollinators.
  • Limit use of pesticides. Only spray when necessary, seek expert advice, and follow label instructions exactly if you do use them.
  • Provide sources of water, such as a birdbath or a water feature.
Pipeline swallowtail on Zinnia Zahara 'Fire'

Pipeline swallowtail on Zinnia Zahara ‘Fire’

Come see us at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden!

These plants and many others are part of every Zoo visitor’s experience. Come see us! Enjoy our gardens as well as the World of the Insect exhibit to learn more about these fascinating and beneficial animals.

World of the Insect (Photo: DJJAM)

World of the Insect (Photo: DJJAM)

April 13, 2016   2 Comments