EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 14, 2013

Love, Animal Kingdom Style

'Sex At The Zoo' at Franklin Park a fun way to punctuate your Valentine's Day celebration

By Kelly Burch

---- — Never mind the birds and the bees, this Friday is all about the gorillas and the camels as Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo hosts its annual “Sex at the Zoo” lecture.

Although this might not be the most romantic way to finish your Valentine’s Day celebration, organizers of the event say they are confident that humans can learn a thing or two about romance and relationships from their furry, feathered, and four-legged cousins.

“There are so many differences between animals and humans, but animals are similar to us in ways we can’t even imagine,” said Jennifer Gresham, director of education for Zoo New England, the parent company of Franklin Park Zoo. “When we look at that, it shows us a funny flip side of the world.”

While some animals, such as the peacock, rely on elaborate physical features to attract a mate, others strive to show that they are good providers. The male of the loggerhead shrike, a bird species found throughout North America, attracts his mate by displaying prey that he has captured, assuring his future partner that he can bring home the bacon for her and her offspring.

Other animals are no so up front with their tactics, although food does usually do the trick.

In many spider species the male is much smaller the female, and she often sees him as a potentially tasty treat. To avoid being eaten themselves, male spiders bribe and distract their mates with food offerings while they mate.

“Presents go a long way,” Gresham said.

The bowerbird family, found throughout Australia and New Guinea, knows a thing or two about courting a mate, too. The male bowerbird not only builds a structure to protect his future family, but he then decorates it with as many bright, colorful objects as he can find.

No matter what the courtship technique, Gresham says that people often are surprised by the similarities between humans and animals.

“Humans are animals,” she said. “Think about how we choose a mate. Often we are looking for someone who can provide a house, protection for the kids, and money. Animals are looking for the same things.”

Friday night, Gresham will present interesting stories from the animal kingdom and draw on her seven years as Director of Education at Zoo New England to show just how similar they are to humans.

“I talk about everything; giraffes, camels, fish,” she said. “We can learn something from every one of them.”

After the lecture, visitors are invited to try any new courtships skills that they have acquired at a cocktail hour. Samples from Barefoot Wine, Samuel Adams Beer, and Cabot cheese will be served, alongside other catering and dessert options. All proceeds from the event benefit Zoo New England.

If you go What: "Sex at the Zoo," a lecture and cocktail reception for the adult crowd. When: Friday, Feb. 15, 6 to 9 p.m. Where: Franklin Park Zoo, One Franklin Park Road, Boston. How: Tickets for those who are 21 and older $25, by calling 617.989.2015, or online at zoonewengland.org/sexatthezoo.