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Couples learn about jungle love at 'Sex at the Zoo'

Saturday - 3/31/2012, 9:32am  ET

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Couples mingle in front of the chimpanzee enclosure inside the Chimp Forest at the Maryland Zoo. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
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'Sex At The Zoo'

WTOP's Michelle Basch reports.

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Michelle Basch, wtop.com

BALTIMORE, Md. - Dozens of happy couples filed into the Chimp House at The Maryland Zoo for a little pre-Valentines Day love -- animal love, that is. They were there to learn about it.

The annual event, Sex at the Zoo, was sold out ahead of time, attracting teams of folks who came to learn about how the wild animals, well, "do it."

It turns out cranes have elaborate courtship dances, male Panamanian golden frogs chirp and "wave" to attract females and male porcupines show their interest by dousing their female counterparts in urine.

Jessica Vogtman is an animal keeper at the zoo and one of the event's guest speakers.

She says chimps are very promiscuous, and when a female is ready to do the deed, her already pinkish rear end, turns bright pink.

"That literally acts as a bright pink flag to any male in her area, basically letting them know that they're available for reproduction," Vogtman says.

Animal Keeper Amy Demchak, who works with warthogs, discovered that one of their females really enjoyed it when Demchak would scratch her with a wooden backstratcher. Then, one day, Demchak was scratching the female when a male warthog came along and decided to breed with his lady. During it all, Demchak kept on scratching.

"He was finished before I knew it, and she just kind of stayed for the backscratching and it was all over. And then six months later, we actually did have piglets," Demchak says.

Some of the presentations by zoo staff included eye-opening slideshows that had guests giggling.

The event, held five days before Valentine's Day, was an adults-only venue, and participants had to be 21 or older to attend. Guests enjoyed an open bar, hors d'oeuvres and desserts while learning about the strange mating habits in the jungle.

Since this year's event was held, two of the zoo's chimpanzees, Joice and Bunny, are pregnant.

"We are cautiously optimistic about having two successful chimpanzee births this year," says Mike McClure, general curator at The Maryland Zoo.

At 40 years old, Joice is the oldest of the 11 chimps that make up the zoo's chimp troop. Bunny is 22.

"It is not uncommon for chimps to continue to have offspring well into their late 40's," McClure says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)