Animal lovers of the week

The scandals. The secrets. The snarls. When it’s time for Valentine’s Day at Zoo Atlanta, there’s no set formula for what happens when boy meets girl. We’ve picked just a few of our favorite animal pairs to share the stage as we celebrate a week of love.

Vern and Shirley the warthogs

Five years and many piglets later, these two still have that same old swine shine. Warthogs Vern and Shirley have produced four litters of piglets since arriving at Zoo Atlanta in 2007. In the wild, male warthogs play no role in the rearing of their offspring, but Zoo resident Vern has proven to be an interested and protective dad.

The naked mole rat queen and her soldiers

Her majesty’s pretty selective about her secret service. Naked mole rats are one of only two species of mammals known to be eusocial; their social structure resembles that of ants and bees. Only the queen reproduces, usually only with one to three select male colony members.

Andazi and Utenzi the eastern black rhinos

She was a petite beauty from Miami. He was a handsome swain from San Antonio. Their firstborn’s due in August! Female Andazi, 6, and male Utenzi, 8, make up one of the Zoo’s newest and most exciting animal pairings. The pair were observed breeding for the first time in May 2012, and Andazi’s first calf is expected to arrive in early fall 2013. It’s a lengthier pregnancy than many observed at Zoo Atlanta, but this new arrival will be well worth the wait: Eastern black rhinos are critically endangered, and a birth for the captive population will shine an important spotlight on a species that needs as much conservation attention as it can get.

Benny and Blaze the Sumatran orangutans

She’s 16. He’s 33, and it was a whirlwind romance. Their first offsprng is 5 weeks old on Valentine’s Day! The flame-named Blaze was originally recommended to pair with Alan, but like many Zoo romances, that one never got off the ground. She preferred to pursue a budding friendship with Benny, and she gave birth to their first offspring on January 10, 2013. Will Blaze also learn to court the possibility of maternal love with her month-old newborn? We hope so!  

Taz and Kuchi, Kudzoo, Sukari and Lulu the western lowland gorillas

What can we say? It pays to be the silverback. Wild western lowland gorillas live in troops led by a dominant silverback, and Taz’s dynamic family group is an excellent representation of gorilla social life. Taz spent his early years in a bachelor group before the Gorilla Species Survival Plan selected him to lead his own, and he’s since become the father of Kali, Kazi, Macy Baby, Gunther, Henry and Merry Leigh, with two more little ones on the way in March and August 2013.


Stay tuned for updates on all of our animal pairs, their offspring and the ones to come! Thanks as always for helping us spread the love for Zoo Atlanta.