Zookeepers work to spice up animals' sex lives at Houston Zoo

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
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Patas monkeys are getting a little help with their love life at the Houston Zoo

HOUSTON -- At the Patas monkey exhibit at the Houston Zoo, there's one woman who is always looking to make a match.

Dena Honeycutt gets paid to get monkeys to mate.

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"I know the whole Patas population in North America the best," Honeycutt said.

Her job is part science. First, matches must have diverse DNA backgrounds.

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"We plan every birth. We move animals around to maintain the genetic diversity, so there isn't as much relatedness between all the animals," Honeycutt said.

But science can't always lead to attraction, and since breeding is the ultimate goal, personality is more than half the battle.

"Sometimes the females like the male way too much, and he's overwhelmed and can't handle it," Honeycutt said.

Sounds familiar, right?

Honeycutt said recently she placed a Patas male named Mojo with these females, but they hated him.

"So they started picking and teasing him," Honeycutt said.

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Mojo was removed and matched with a nicer monkey named Faith.

"She adores him," Honeycutt said. "She gets so mad if a keeper comes and pays any attention to him. She'll come yell and swat at you."

She says it's as close to love as monkeys get, and a match to keep the species going.

The matching business at the Houston Zoo is more than just science.

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For the zebras, when there is an animal attraction, it must be fostered no matter who is looking.

"They're open to doing it in the middle of the day when the public is here," said John Register with the Houston Zoo. "Kids will ask 'What is that?' and we let the parents answer that the best they can."

Register has to find matches for both zebras and giraffes.

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Just last month, he did. The Houston Zoo got a new addition: a 1-year-old giraffe named Joshua, shipped all the way from Virginia as part of the Giraffe Species Survival Plan.

So far, the reception among the other females has been good.

"The best thing to do is to introduce them slowly, let them smell each other first," Register said. "Then you put them together, and in my case, you hope for the best."

Joshua is still too young to mate, but he'll get the urge soon enough. And then breeders will know whether he's a match made in zoo heaven.