It was a perfect summer night. The birds were chirping and bees buzzing. There was a hum of cicadas on the horizon and a cool, gentle breeze blowing. Our guides escorted us into our campsite for the night, right at the center of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We were there for the “Roar & Snore” and we were all excited. Toddlers jumped up and down, thrilled about this special evening of camping. Little did they know how special it was about to get…
First stop on the tour after dinner was the Elephant enclosure. The elephants were all out, close to the viewing zone and they seemed playful, trumpeting at each other and wrestling with their trunks.
And then one of the elephants, right in front of G-d and a few dozen innocent, wide eyed, four year olds, mounted another one. It begged the question:
“Mommy? Why does that elephant have two trunks?”
To be fair, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a breeding facility, and a highly successful one at that. I’m not sure if it’s the cool breezes, the romantic so-cal sunsets or something in the water, but the animals at that park, at least on the night we were there, were in the MOOD.
It wasn’t just the elephants.
Birds do, bees do it, even beetles in the trees were doing it. As parents we had some ‘splaining to do. Or not. Here’s a little bit of how we handled the situation…
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Masks or Blindfolds? 1 of 9My crew was looking pretty crazy when we arrived. Like we could handle almost anything. But did we need a mask? Or a blindfold....
The Facts of Life…. 2 of 9When nature took it's course, several of the kids had questions. Several of the ADULTS had questions too. But we were kind of afraid to ask. Mostly we were startled. Or too busy snickering about "junk" and taking inappropriate pictures to post on our instagram feed. Some moments are teachable and some are just awkward. We let our kids know that the elephant only had one trunk. But even for the most matter of fact parent, the explanation of this situation was best left till later. Possibly years later.
Hey What’s That Over There?! 3 of 9Right around the time the elephants were cavorting, there was a sunset, and a view of baby giraffes. Hey! Check out the baby giraffes you guys! If you are not up for a biology lesson, distraction is a great idea.
Cover Your Eyes and Plug Your Ears? 4 of 9Doesn't this male lion look pleased with himself? And a little tired and hungry? That's because he was up all night, tearing up the clubs, roaring at the moon, having fun with his ladyfriends. At least that is the story we told. This dude likes to party with his lady friends. And sometimes they get a little loud when they party. Like our old neighbors. It's all good. We didn't see a thing. We took the opportunity to talk about Lion family structures. And our old neighbors.
Shocked? Who me? 5 of 9The funny thing is that kids are far less likely to be shocked by this stuff than adults. Sometimes the best reaction is to play it cool and not react at all. The more matter of fact you can be, the better.
The Pros Know 6 of 9We were particularly impressed by (and taking notes) the way the guides handled some tricky questions about animal breeding habits. They offered up small bits of info in a simple and scientific way.
Bugs Do It 7 of 9See these bugs? They literally fell out of a tree, hit me in the head, and kept on copulating. For whatever reason it was a lot easier to explain their union to my young sons than explaining the elephants. My point? Start small if you want to lay out the facts of life. Birds and bees are small, and simpler to explain than very large mammals.
Get Over It! 8 of 9Ultimately we all have to breed or we will end up (sadly) like the Northern White Rhino pictured here. 1 of 8 left in the world, and this one is past a fertile age. They are almost certain to go extinct. The zoo wants the animals to breed because that ensures their survival. Maybe it's a little embarrassing to explain to your children, but it's not a bad thing for them to learn about. Circle of life, baby.
Live and Learn 9 of 9My kids got an eyeful at the Zoo Safari Park during this last visit. The teenagers whispered and giggled, the little kids were nonplussed, the adults blushed a bit. But we can all agree that we love the zoo. Even when it's extra wild.
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Disclosure: I was a guest of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on the night in question. I was there to write a feature about the Safari Park for my own blog, Momfluential. Watch for my review there. Our love for the Safari Park has not been scandalized in the slightest by the amorous animals during our visit.