Things to Do

Bear sex? Horny elephants? Inside Denver Zoo's Singles Safari

On the agenda for the Denver Zoo's second-ever Singles Safari event this Friday night: horny elephants, polar bear sex, and why big cats like Calvin Klein's Obsession so much.

"We wanted to give a different way to interpret animals and talk about animals to this crowd," says marketing director Patrick Phelan. "This gives the keepers a chance to be edgy. We approach adult topics that are great to discuss and are interesting, but may not fit with G-rated crowd of the day."

The zoo started Singles Safari last year as a way to make up for a dip in donations due to the lagging economy, Phelan says. It was an instant hit, drawing 1,200 people. This year, the zoo decided to limit it to 1,000: 500 ladies and 500 men.

The event starts at 7 p.m., one hour after the zoo closes. Beer, wine and appetizers (including "mac and cheese cupcakes" that actually sound pretty good) are included in the $30 ticket price. After a few icebreakers, the singles are free to roam the zoo and check out three "Ask Me" stations, where animal keepers will be ready to talk about sex, baby.

One station will focus on the zoo's forthcoming exhibit, Asian Tropics. The exhibit will be groundbreaking in that it will be capable of housing up to eight male elephants -- the largest so-called bachelor herd in the United States.

But as explained in the Westword feature "Caution: A Herd of Bull Elephants is Coming to the Denver Zoo," keeping male elephants presents unique challenges. Not the least of those is managing the bulls' "musth," a period of time in which a male elephant's hormones go off the charts. Raw testosterone leaks from slits on the sides of their heads, urine constantly dribbles down the backs of their legs and the bulls have only two things on their mind: fighting and, um, you know.

Singles will also be able to learn about the intricacies of polar bear breeding. When the zoo's only male polar bear, Frosty, died last month, the zoo was left with two single ladies. Keepers will explain how they go about finding them mates.

"We're so specific about the things we look at: genetics, blood lines, family lines," Phelan says. "We also look at their personalities and how they might get along. Even with single animals, we have to look at all these different aspects to find out if they're the right mate."

The third "Ask Me" station will demonstrate how the zoo's big cats respond to pheromones. To stimulate the cats, keepers regularly spray colognes and perfumes around their exhibits, Phelan says. "It causes the animals to do different behavior," he says. "The cats get active. It stimulates their mind and their behavior. They start marking the spots (where the perfume and cologne are) with their own pheromones."

In fact, Phelan says, keepers at the Bronx Zoo did a recent study where they tested which fragrances excite the cats the most. The winner: Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men.

"It's kind of a cool relation to the singles scene," says Phelan. "You may use cologne to attract the ladies, but we use it here, too."

Tickets for the Singles Safari are available until 5 p.m. today -- although Phelan warns that the tickets for the ladies are going fast. The men have been slower about signing up, but Phelan is confident the event will sell out. "Guys seem to be last-minute," he says.

And, hey, if you get lucky at the Singles Safari, you and your new mate can return to the zoo for Date Night on Sunday. The zoo also does weddings. No word on whether it's possible to have a tiger cub for a ring-bearer, however.