A veteran zoo keeper teaches a newbie about animal mating rituals.
|Prompt: Romantic Encounters
Written for "The Monthly Script Writing Contest"
EXT – A ZOO – DAY
We move through random people out enjoying the day at the zoo. Some children hold popcorn. Some adults push strollers or hold cameras. There is an air of excitement and people laugh, talk, and stop to look at animals. As we move, we pass monkeys, lions, rhinos, and then approach a single armed gate that can easily be stepped over. A bold red and white sign states, “Authorized Personnel Only.” We move pass that to a small building with small windows, peeling paint, and a worn, wooden door. We pass through the door to the inside.
INT. – THE KITCHEN/STOCK ROOM OF A ZOO – DAY
Inside the room are shelves from the floor to the ceiling full of boxes, jars, and containers. There are a large walk-in refrigerator and freezer. Two commercial-sized sinks line one wall. The walls are a dull, faded color and the asbestos tile floor is well worn. The room is well lit with several florescent lights. Fresh vegetables are stacked on the table in the center of the room as well as on the drying rack by one of the sinks. A woman in a tan zoo uniform stands at the sink washing vegetables. SARAH JANE SMITH is in her late twenties, slim, has light brown hair pulled neatly into a ponytail, and skin well-tanned by the sun. By the table, MARK DAVIS, a young man in his mid-twenties with similarly colored hair, cut short but styled with gel and having a paler skin sorts vegetables, cutting off bad parts and tossing them into the large round garbage can.
So, what made you decide you wanted to work at a zoo? I mean,
most people’s lives are enough of a zoo.
Lots of things. My dad was a vet, so I grew up with an appreciation
for animals. Whenever I brought something home, he always let
me keep it, at least until we nursed it back to health. At different
times we had a litter of racoons, a fawn, several squirrels, both
babies and adults, unknown numbers of chipmunks, as well as
stray dogs and cats throughout my childhood. The cats were the
main source of the other animals.
I used to pretend I was a vet when I was a kid, either working on
one of our dogs, the cats and other animals were usually too
uncooperative, or sometimes even making my little sister pretend
she was an animal for me to work on. As long as I let her be a horse
or pony, she was usually game for the idea.
Why didn’t you become a vet?
There is a whole lot of math involved in becoming a vet. I can do
math if I need to, but I do not enjoy it. I never even bother to
figure out my miles per gallon when I fill up. I don’t calculate my
hours at work to be sure I’m getting paid the right amount. I
basically live my life as if math didn’t exist.
You know there’s a lot of math involved here too, right? We have
to calculate how much to feed each animal, weigh them…
I didn’t know that at the time. That wasn’t mentioned in the job
Besides, I have a pretty awesome co-worker that I’m hoping to pawn
off all the math onto. I hear she likes math or some nonsense like that.
(turns around and grins before resuming work)
Well, I’ll bet that co-worker will want something in return.
(uses sexy voice)
Whatever you say, baby.
I should have never told you you looked like my celebrity crush.
Just because I find you attractive doesn’t mean anything. There’s
more to romance than just a pretty face. Speaking of which, you
came at the right time of year if romance is what you’re interested
in. We have to keep an eye on the mating pairs to ensure everyone
is doing their job. Did you know that for years we couldn’t figure
out how to get a panda pair to mate? And by “we” I mean
humans, not just Americans. Worldwide, captive panda mating has
been a problem. At least one zoo even tried panda porn to try to
teach them what to do. I’m not sure if that worked, but still,
interesting idea. Of course, artificial insemination tends to be
what we rely on most, but if we are ever going to be able to
reintroduce them into the wild, we have to be able to ensure
they can mate there. But panda often stay with their parents
for up to two years, so maybe there is something that happens
in the wild that teaches them. Female pandas tend to mate with
multiple males each time they are in heat in the wild, so babies
have opportunities to observe things up close and personal several
times to get the hang of it. In captivity, there is generally only one
pair and they may only go at It once, if at all.
Sorry. Once per year. Female pandas are usually only in heat
For 3-7 days and the male has to be interested as well.
What male isn’t?
Male pandas. They actually have really low testosterone
because the bamboo gives them so little energy. They only
get a boost when they are fighting over a female, which of
course, doesn’t happen in zoos. It’s not uncommon for the
male, if he can even figure out what to do, to not want to bother.
(hands Mark the rest of the freshly washed veggies)
Well, glad we aren’t with the pandas. I don’t want to do
any artificial insemination.
The vets do that, but we help if we’re needed.
Let’s hope we aren’t needed.
But if you’re shy about animals having sex, be glad you aren’t
working with the bonobo monkeys. They have sex a lot and
all sorts of sex. Interestingly, they will actually have sex facing
each other, like humans. They also French kiss, have oral sex,
give hand jobs, engage in homosexual activities, and even
incest. They have a lot of sex with just about everyone for
just about any reason, for anything from gaining rank to use
as a sort of currency among them. They are fascinating animals.
So, maybe folks should talk about young couples making it like
bonobos instead of rabbits.
Alright, so I’m not with the pandas and I’m not with the bonobos.
What do I actually need to know about?
(piles MARK’s vegetables in a plastic container)
Well, here in the African part of the zoo…
Minus the primate section.
Yes, we don’t care for the African primates, anyway, you’ll be
interested in the giraffe’s mating ritual. The male giraffe licks
and rubs the female’s hind end until she urinates. He drinks it,
checking for her hormone levels to see if she’s ready to mate.
Oh God! Please tell me I don’t have to get involved in that!
(holds his hand over his mouth briefly before lifting the
box of vegetables into a wagon for easy tranportation)
Oh no. Giraffes, unlike pandas, are usually pretty good at getting
things done on their own, especially here in captivity. They don’t
even have a real mating season in captivity. They can mate all
year round, weather permitting, unlike in the wild.
(begins pulling the wagon loaded with veggies outside)
(follows MARK outside)
Spotted hyenas are pretty cool. The packs are run by a
dominant female. Actually, it’s common for the lowest female
to outrank the highest male. Now, that’s what I call sexy.
Female hyenas are awesome! They have a false scrotum and testes
which block their vagina.
Now you’re just making this up.
No. For real! The female even has a sort of pseudo-penis which the
male has to manage to insert his penis into. It’s really a 7-inch clitoris,
but it’s pretty awesome. Mating is tricky for the male, though. It can
sometimes take months for the young males to figure out how to thread
a female just right. By the way, that’s also where she urinates and gives
Are you serious about this?
(approaches the hippopotamus enclosure)
EXT – THE OUTSIDE OF THE HIPPO ENCLOSURE -- DAY
Large indoor/outdoor enclosure with two hippos surrounded by African grasses and a pool
Absolutely. Females hyenas rock! Oh, and the more submissive males
have a better chance of mating than aggressive ones.
(unlocks back area of indoor enclosure and enters with MARK)
INT – THE INSIDE AREA OF THE HIPPO ENCLOSURE NOT ASSESSIBLE TO VISITORS – DAY
The hippo enclosure is painted beige everywhere except the pool and the ceiling which are a light blue. The room is divided so the hippos and humans can’t accidentally interact. There is a closet in the back of the human side of the room which contains an assortment of items necessary for the care and maintenance of the hippos and their enclosure
Wow! Good thing I’m not a hyena.
Nah. You’d be fine.
(laughs as she unlocks and opens the door to a closet beside
the enclosure, in the back area)
Okay, we need to get these two into that area so we can clean out their
(points to the left)
I’ll lure them with food as you lock the gate.
(walks to the left)
Come here sweeties. How are my favorite river horses?
(begins to close the gate after the animals move to the other
side of the enclosure)
Hippopotamus is Greek for “river horse.”
(tosses MARK a broom and long-handled dust pan)
Here. Scoop the poop.
Why me? You should probably show me how first.
Nope. I’m busy observing their behavior and making notes. You
don’t know them well enough to know what’s odd behavior and
(begins writing in notebook as MARK scoops)
Oh! Mark! Check this out!
(male hippo urinates and defecates at the same time, then
begins swinging this tail around like a helicopter, spraying
MARK with the filth--SARAH JANE laughs as MARK
screams in a high-pitched voice and begins scrambling
out of the hippo enclosure)
Sorry! Maybe "Check this out" isn't the best thing to have said
just then. I should have said, "Watch out."
(begins pulling off his shirt--SARAH JANE's laughter stops
as she sees his torso)
See something you like?
Look, their about to mate.
(the hippos go into the water and begin splashing around)
It's their foreplay.
(flexes in front of SARAH JANE)
(gives MARK a quick peck on the cheek and blushes)
Alright, Ranger Rick. Back to work. I need to record how long
their little romantic encounter takes.
If you think that's romantic, just wait.
(takes his broom and begins to dance as he goes back
inside the enclosure to continue cleaning)