3 strange and unusual animal mating rituals you need to know about

Madagascar hissing cockroaches have some pretty wacky mating rituals.

WARNING! This content is NSFW!…we’re only kidding, of course.

Dating and relationships can be complicated, confusing and downright weird. But if you think your significant other is behaving strangely, just wait until you hear about how things go down in the animal kingdom. Seriously though, we’re here to educate. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we thought you needed to know about these three absolutely abnormal animal mating rituals.


Also known as lesser anteaters, tamanduas use their long snouts to sniff out ant, termite and bee colonies. They can eat up to 9,000 ants in a single day! Their long claws enable them to dig into nests and climb trees, and a long, sticky tongue licks up insects.

Tamanduas are solitary animals, until it’s time to find that special someone.

Tamanduas are solitary animals, until it’s time to find a mate. This typically occurs in the fall, and if the timing isn’t exactly right, tamanduas will either ignore each other completely or begin fighting. Totally relatable, right? Zoologists have to closely monitor their behavior to be sure they introduce the male and female at the exact right time. Then once breeding has completed, they need to be separated again pretty quickly, or else the fighting may continue. Basically, they just want to be left alone.

If successful, tamandua gestation lasts for 130-190 days. Babies are born with a solid-colored coat that looks pretty different from their mother’s, but they have those same large claws.

Our female outreach tamandua, Chispa recently gave birth to little Abrazo, who is cute as can be. Abrazo will ride on his mom’s back for about 6 months, and he’ll stay pretty close to her for about a year before beginning his own solitary life.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches

Madagascar hissing cockroaches aren’t anything like the roaches you may find in your apartment – as their name implies, these creepy-crawlers emit a hissing sound. Most insects that make noises do so by rubbing their body parts together (like crickets). However, the Madagascar hissing cockroach exhales air through spiracles, which are small holes in their abdomens. Male roaches will “hiss” to attract females, and females will emit an odor to let the males know they’re interested.

Once they find each other, the males further express interest by rubbing the antennae of the female. After successful breeding, the female will carry around the egg case, called an “ooethecas,” for a little over 2 months until the nymphs (baby cockroaches) hatch from the case.

Next time you’re at Bug U!, see if you can tell the males from the females — males have two horns on their thorax, and females do not.

Male giraffe will sample the urine of potential mates.


Giraffes are the world’s tallest land animal. Our tallest giraffe stands 17 feet tall! They may be incredibly tall and majestic creatures, but their mating ritual is downright weird. In order to determine if a female giraffe is fertile, the male will taste her urine. That’s right. Since giraffe don’t have a set menstrual/estrous cycle like other animals, this is the only way. Males can detect the females’ hormone levels just by drinking their pee.

Once they know that the timing is right, they’ll follow their girl around for a few days trying to mount her. During this time, he may need to fight off competition! He’ll do this by swinging his impressive long neck around and whacking any other males who get in his way.

The fertile female avoids her suitor for a while, until finally standing still long enough to do the deed. This may occur several times over the course of a few days. Once pregnant, the giraffe calf gestates for over 400 days.

Well there you have it. Did this blog post make you blush? Let us know in the comments.

P.S. If you want to learn even more about mating in the animal kingdom, join us for Love Birds & Wild Things this Saturday, Feb. 16. Our very own Dr. Raines will give you all the shockingly true deets about animal reproduction, plus you’ll get a special Zoo tour, light bites (including chocolate covered strawberries!) and a champagne toast.  Tickets are limited and will go fast! Click HERE to reserve your spot now.

Categories: Giraffe, Social Media, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dallas Zoo smashes attendance record for seventh year in a row


Once again, we’ve set an all-time attendance record, for the seventh year in a row! In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, we welcomed 1,074,182 guests, an increase of 4.4% over last year’s record.

“It’s extremely gratifying to see such growth just a year after reaching 1 million guests for the first time,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO. “We’re thankful to our community for recognizing the renaissance we’ve set in motion here.”

“Most importantly, this means we’re reaching many more people with our mission of conservation,” Hudson added. “Wild places around the world need our help, and every visitor to the Zoo supports our work with conservation groups in the field.”

“These remarkable achievements show that strategic public-private management partnerships, such as the one created with the Dallas Zoo in 2009, can exceed even our highest expectations,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “A jump like this, just one year after reaching 1 million visitors for the first time, is outstanding. The Dallas Zoo continues to impress each year with exceptional exhibits and educational programs, and I’m sure that we can expect even bigger things in the years to come.”

Since becoming a privately managed asset of the city of Dallas seven years ago, our attendance is up by nearly 400,000 guests per year. Of the 228 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), only about 30 other zoos reach a million visitors annually.

Dallas Zoo officials credit the increase to several key factors:

  • Overwhelming public support for the complex, airlift rescue earlier this year of elephants from Swaziland, where they were slated to be killed.
  • The birth of calf, Ajabu, in May to rescued elephant Mlilo.
  • The spring reopening of the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari. The popular people-mover underwent a $3 million renovation.
  • Giants of the Savanna named No. 3 zoo habitat in the nation – and the best in Texas — by USA Today’s 10Best.
  • Named one of “10 Amazing Zoos in the World” by MSN Travel/Reader’s Digest.
  • Named one of the “Best U.S. Zoos” by noted travel author Jon Wassner.
  • A fifth consecutive Certificate of Excellence award as one of the world’s best businesses by TripAdvisor, the largest travel reviewing and planning web site.


Categories: Media | 1 Comment

Dallas Zoo attracts more than 1 million visitors again

Fast Crowd v3For the second straight year, we’ve welcomed one million visitors! The milestone was hit a full month earlier than last year, the first time we reached the exclusive mark. This milestone now puts us on pace for the seventh consecutive year of record attendance.

And it’s all thanks to our incredible supporters who we will honor with a “Thanks a Million!” weekend celebration Sept. 17-18. (Details to come in the next few weeks!)

“We appreciate our community’s support so much,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO. “More than a million people recognize the efforts we’ve made to become one of the nation’s best zoos. They’re telling their friends that we’re not the zoo of the past, but one that’s leading the future. We can’t wait to see where we’ll end up at the end of our fiscal year in September.”

We welcomed our millionth visitor Saturday night during our first Pokémon Go Night event. More than 5,200 guests flooded the gates starting at 6 p.m., ready to hunt Pokémon throughout the 106-acre park.

This is the second time we’ve welcomed one million visitors in a fiscal year. The previous record was set just last year on Sept. 23. Of the more than 230 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), we join only 30 other zoos to reach more than a million visitors annually.

Several key factors helped us reach this milestone:

  • The March reopening of the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari. The popular people-mover underwent a $3 million renovation with updated electrical and mechanical systems, a new station, air-conditioning onboard, and more.
  • Elaborate LEGO® brick displays crafted from more than 700,000 bricks called us home from Jan. to April. Nature Connects included larger-than-life sculptures created by award-winning artist Sean Kenney, and a large, tented Stay and Play Brickyard, presented by LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Dallas/Fort Worth.
  • We collaborated with conservation officials in Swaziland, Africa, and two other accredited U.S. facilities to provide a safe haven for 17 African elephants who arrived in March. Wildlife officials in drought-ravaged Swaziland planned to cull the elephants in order to focus on rhino conservation. Five of the elephants found a home in Dallas, and more than two months later, rescued elephant Mlilo gave birth to baby boy Ajabu.
  • Fifth consecutive Certificate of Excellence award as one of the world’s best businesses by TripAdvisor, the largest travel reviewing and planning web site, and maintains a four-star rating on Yelp.
Categories: Media | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Mourning our beloved Kipenzi


We’re overwhelmed by the love you’ve shown today for our little Kipenzi, and to our grieving staff. Because you’ve asked a few specific questions, we wanted to answer them here for you.

1. Are you reviewing what happened? Yes. We are conducting a very thorough review of the incident down to the smallest detail, to examine every aspect and ensure that every opinion is heard. While some members of the media have used the word “investigation,” we believe this implies that we have to figure out what happened, or assign blame, and this is not the case. We were fully staffed and they witnessed every moment except the exact second she hit the wall, so we know what happened; no policies or procedures appear to be violated. However, what we WILL do now, with relentless focus, is examine the accident from every angle to look for ways to keep this from happening again. No one wants to prevent this more than our staff.
2. Will you change the habitat? At this time, we have no plans to do so. The habitat is a world-class design that sets a standard that zoos around the world have followed. Kip was in the smaller area of the Giants of the Savanna because it was safer for her than the big space, where she could get up more speed and would have had to avoid more obstacles, including other animals. This was a tragic, heartbreaking accident, nothing more.
3. Then how was she injured? Calves of all species, from horses to cows to giraffes and gerenuks, love to run around wildly. (Like toddlers.) We can’t put bubble-wrap around them, as much as we’d like to. Yesterday when the Zoo closed, the adult giraffes shifted toward the barn, but Kip and big brother Kopano wanted to play more. They chased each other through the habitat and ran in big loops around it. They got to the end of the habitat and Kopano turned the right way, but Kip instead made a sharp turn into the wall. She was a calf; she played like a calf. This type of thing can happen with any hoofstock, cows and horses included – and in the wild, where giraffes will stumble into depressions, fall, and calves run into trees or even another giraffe.
4. How could that hurt her so badly? A necropsy by our veterinary team this morning confirmed that Kip died from a broken neck – again, unfortunately, not an uncommon injury in giraffes, simply because of the long, slender way their necks are built.
5. Should she have been allowed to run, and was the habitat too small? We were very cautious about allowing Kip (and Kopano and Jamie before her) to grow into the larger yards slowly. Yesterday was no different than any other day since May 1, when Kipenzi first went out. She had been exploring and running in that yard for three months, and that’s essential to her growth and development. We couldn’t pen her up in a small area, despite the risk that she might fall or run into something. However, she was in the feeding yard because it was overall a safer place for her – the large Savanna would have been much riskier. So she was in her “baby gate” kind of place when this unfortunate, freak accident occurred.
6. How are the keepers? Our whole staff, especially our giraffe team, is devastated. We all deeply loved Kipenzi, as you did, and are grieving. However, our team is dedicated, devoted and strong, and we have other animals to care for through our tears. Everyone came to work Wednesday, and even some who were off came in to be here with their colleagues. We brought in counselors to help staffers, too. We have received many condolence gifts, from food to flowers and beautiful artwork, and we appreciate that more than you know.
7. How is Katie, Kip’s mom? Katie is eating normally and is finding comfort from her best giraffe friends, Auggie and Jade. She remains in the barn with a private yard while keepers monitor her closely to be sure she continues to do well. She’ll go back into the large habitat when she indicates that she’s ready.
8. Is the rest of the herd mourning? They are acting normally. Giraffes, while social animals, aren’t as emotionally connected with each other as some other animals, like elephants, primates and whales. In the wild, they must constantly be on alert for predators, so they are hard-wired to move on quickly after the loss of a calf.
9. What happened at the Zoo the next day? Operations were completely normal, and the giraffe herd was out in both areas of the habitat. Nothing was different because this doesn’t seem to be a mistake or an error on anyone’s part. It was a terrible accident, and a not-uncommon one in hoofstock.
10. Will there be a memorial at the Zoo for Kipenzi? We are definitely considering how to best honor her memory. Because she was such a remarkable ambassador for her species and for conservation – helping to raise more than $35,000 for our partner in Africa, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation – we chose to first suggest donations to that group. (Donate here: We need time to figure out what other memorial we wish to set up, but we will keep you posted here.
11. Will you have more giraffe calves? We are part of the national Species Survival Plan for giraffes, and will continue to breed when recommended.
12. What is Kip’s legacy? Kipenzi was undoubtedly the most recognized giraffe in the world, and her birth live on Animal Planet captivated millions. From the anticipation of her arrival to her first moments standing and her introduction into the Savanna habitat, Kip continued to melt hearts and bring attention to her species, whose population in the wild has been reduced significantly in recent years. The supportive emails, tweets and Facebook posts we’ve received and responded to throughout Kip’s life could fill volumes – she truly was a household name, and people connected with her deeply.

When you voted for her name online, you were given an opportunity to donate to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Those donations raised $35,000 to help protect her “cousins” in Africa. Following her passing, Kip continues to bring awareness to her endangered species, and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation has been flooded with more donations in her honor to help the plight of giraffes. Kip’s gave the public a front-row seat into the delivery and care of giraffes, all while inspiring conversations about what we all can do to save them in the wild. We’ve heard from parents whose children were enthralled with seeing a live animal birth right from their living room, classrooms who started research projects on giraffes in the wild, and guests who flew across the country to see the giraffe who was an inspiration for all ages – the stories are incredible. We will always cherish the light Kip was to so many, and her role as an ambassador for conservation will not be forgotten.

13. Will you continue to update us? Yes, of course. We appreciate your support so much. And we operate from a position of transparency, because we’re proud of the work we do and how we provide for animals in our care. We will respond as much as we can, but please understand that given the enormous outpouring of love, it is difficult to respond individually. But know that we are reading every single comment, and that they are helping us get through this difficult time.

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Giraffe, Media, Social Media, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , | 75 Comments

MEET “KIPENZI”! Swahili word for ‘loved one’ wins by a neck

_MG_2136-CBAfter seven days and more than 50,000 votes, the world has spoken: Katie’s famous calf is named “Kipenzi” (kih-PEHN-zee), meaning “loved one” in Swahili. Dallas Zoo keepers revealed the name in a creative presentation Monday morning on the Animal Planet L!VE web cameras which first introduced the lanky baby to the world two weeks ago.

Friday night at 8 p.m., the new calf gets the world’s biggest nightlight, too, when Dallas’s iconic Reunion Tower will be emblazoned with her name, a giraffe pattern and “Dallas Zoo.”

“We’re elated that so many people voted on the name of Katie’s calf,” said Gregg Hudson, the Dallas Zoo’s president and chief executive officer. “Because so many asked for the baby to be named after their loved ones, ‘Kipenzi’ is a perfect choice to honor the spirit of those heartfelt requests.”

Millions worldwide fell in love with Katie and her calf April 10 during a remarkable live birth shown to adoring fans on cable television’s Animal Planet and Animal Planet L!VE web cameras. The birth saw more than 2 million streams on, and the “Giraffe Birth Live” TV special the next day drew 1.4 million viewers. The social media accounts of both the Dallas Zoo and Animal Planet received hundreds of thousands of messages of support for the unprecedented project.

“We knew this live birth project would resonate with many people, but we were overwhelmed by the response,” Hudson said. “We are extremely proud of the expertise and dedication of our keepers and veterinary team, and this was a bold and unique way of pulling back the curtain to show the excellent care we provide every day to those in our care.”

“It’s been an honor to partner with the Dallas Zoo to bring Katie’s miraculous journey to motherhood to millions on Animal Planet and Animal Planet L!VE,” said Rick Holzman, general manager and executive vice president of Animal Planet. “After the past several weeks of following these majestic giraffes around the clock, little Kipenzi feels like a part of our family — and I’m sure countless others feel the same way.”

The cameras will remain live at until 7 a.m. Monday (April 27), when viewers will have to say goodbye to the little one they’ve grown to love.

The calf  has been gently introduced to the Giants of the Savanna outdoor feeding habitat over the past few days. Starting early next week, she will make regular appearances outdoors, weather permitting. Zookeepers will keep a close eye on wind and rain to ensure that Kipenzi remains safe and healthy.

She will slowly meet all members of the herd, including her 6-month-old half-brother, Kopano, and 4-year-old sister, Jamie. Kipenzi has gained more than 30 pounds since_MG_2163-CB birth and stands more than 6 feet tall. In the feed yard, she will join mom Katie and the only giraffe she’s met so far, “Uncle Auggie,” the zoo’s oldest and most patient giraffe who does the best around new calves.

Kipenzi’s remarkable birth also has allowed the Dallas Zoo to raise money for wildlife conservation. A friend of the zoo offered to match any donations made in the baby’s honor, up to $25,000. All donations will go directly to help rescue and support threatened wildlife in Africa, including giraffes. Donations will be accepted through Sunday at

The calf’s father is Tebogo, one of the most popular giraffes at the Dallas Zoo. The now 13-member herd roams the award-winning Giants of the Savanna, the only U.S. zoo habitat where giraffes and elephants mingle alongside zebra, impala, guineafowl and other African species. The habitat is currently in the running for USA Today’s “Best Zoo Exhibit.” Please continue voting for us until Monday, April 27 at

A reticulated giraffe, Kipenzi is one of approximately 4,700 who remain, down from an estimated 31,000 in 1998, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Through the Species Survival Plan, zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums – including the Dallas Zoo – have built programs dedicated to ensuring appropriate breeding for genetic diversity.

WATCH the giraffe keepers reveal Kipenzi’s name:

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Giraffe, Media, Social Media, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Brought to you by the Dallas Zoo