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.)
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.
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!
May 2, 2016 No Comments
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – African proverb
It’s Arbor Day, the day to take notice of all the wonderful things our leafy green neighbors provide us – beauty, shade, clean water and oxygen, just to name a few. Planting a tree isn’t just about what it can do for us today; it’s an investment in our future.
Join us in support of the Taking Root campaign, a region-wide initiative to plant one tree per person (two million) in the Tri-state by 2020. Last year around this time, nearly 85,000 trees had been planted and registered with Taking Root. This year, that number is approaching 200,000 and growing fast as the campaign gains momentum.
Greening the Flying Pig
Last year, Taking Root teamed up with the Flying Pig Marathon to plant trees along marathon route that will offset the carbon footprint of the event. The goal is to plant 26 trees for 26 miles. If you’re running the Flying Pig Marathon this Sunday, look for several trees that have already been planted along Victory Parkway and Pete Rose Way.
Make a Difference Day
Taking Root also kicked off its first annual, region-wide tree planting event on National Make a Difference Day on October 24, 2015. On that day, 29 teams in 22 different Tri-state communities planted 1,100 trees! This year, Taking Root plans to make an even bigger difference on National Make a Difference Day on October 22, 2016.
Connecting People with Resources
If you can’t plant a tree in your own yard, consider joining a tree planting event at your local park or organize a tree planting at your church or school. In fact, if you have a project in mind, Taking Root is happy to help connect you with the resources you need. That’s what the Cincinnati Recreation Commission did when they needed help planting trees at the Olden Recreation Area in East Price Hill last week. Taking Root was able to connect them with expertise from Holscher Hackman Garden Center and volunteers from Macy’s to get the job done. Submit your project application here.
Wherever you find yourself on this Arbor Day, take a minute to appreciate the trees around you and consider supporting the Taking Root campaign to ensure a healthy planet for future generations.
April 29, 2016 No Comments
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.
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.
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.
April 22, 2016 No Comments