By Marina Csomor
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer
LANSING — When Lansing resident James Bossé planned a Valentine’s date, he didn’t take the typical approach.
Bossé took his girlfriend to the zoo to learn a thing or two about animal courtship.
“My girl’s in town, so I wanted to go out,” Bossé said. “It’s around Valentine’s Day, it’s a good idea. It’s unique. It’s not your usual little date — go to a movie, dinner. (Instead,) go to this.”
On Saturday at 4 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., Potter Park Zoo, 1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave., in Lansing, held Jungle Love: The Animal Dating Game, a romantic event at which attendees were able to eat and drink while hearing about mating in the animal world.
“Tonight’s a celebration of all the funny things people and other animals do to try and find a significant other,” said Dennis Laidler, Potter Park Zoo’s education curator, who gave the evening’s presentations.
Everyone from young professionals to senior citizens attended this 18 or older event, where they had the chance to meet a few zoo animals and then snack on hors d’oeuvres and desserts, such as quiche and fruit dipped in a chocolate fountain.
After taking a seat at candlelight tables, the crowd prepared for a multimedia presentation. Laidler had the crowd laughing as he detailed various methods of attraction, mating behaviors and even appendage size of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and more.
Potter Park Zoo Marketing Coordinator Payal Ravani said the Jungle Love event is popular among area residents. Last year, more than 200 attended the show and zoo officials had to turn away guests at the door. This year, to accommodate a larger audience, two Jungle Love showings were held.
“I don’t think there’s anything like it,” Ravani said. “It’s pretty unique and funny.”
Such Valentine’s events are something many zoos offer their patrons to educate the public on services they provide, Laidler said.
“Valentine’s Day celebrates courtship and finding that significant other, and at accredited zoos, a big part of what we do for endangered species is matching up,” Laidler said.
Throughout the night, prizes were given to guests with winning raffle tickets, including a bouquet of roses and a gift card for a massage. At their tables, guests were given goodie boxes with items including pencils and condoms to take home.
“That’s funny,” Bossé said. “That’s kind of a party if there’s a condom in there.”
Laidler said the zoo enjoys offering educational events, such as Jungle Love, for more than its usual younger audience.
“Zoos are an incredibly effective place for a family to come and have a wonderful time,” Laidler said. “But sometimes, mom and dad like to do something without the kids, so it gives the chance to do that. It’s a lot of fun for us. I get the chance to talk about things I never get to talk about.”
New York City resident Doreen Wu said she was happy to accompany Bossé to such an event.
“I’m in New York right now,” Wu said. “These quaint-type gatherings aren’t as common out there, so it’s special when they have (something) small.”
In holding this event, Laidler said zoo officials simply were hoping to offer the community a bit of unusual entertainment.
“We’re not looking at making money on this event,” Laider said. “We just try to break even so that the main purpose of this event is to give people that may not see the zoo or may not get to the zoo (to) see the zoo in the kind of light that we’d like them to be able to see.”