We flock to zoos to see exotic animals from faraway lands, but those creatures may just be visiting, too. Some travel as goodwill ambassadors, others make a trip for a little long distance romance to mate and shake up the gene pool of a captive species. Here are some of our favorite critters who have taken their show on the road.We flock to zoos to see exotic animals from faraway lands, but those creatures may just be visiting, too. Some travel as goodwill ambassadors, others make a trip for a little long distance romance to mate and shake up the gene pool of a captive species. Here are some of our favorite critters who have taken their show on the road.
Zoo Animals on Vacation
It's not just pandas who are getting busy at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Mating giant anteaters Dante and Maripi are also using their vacation, courtesy of their home zoo in Nashville, to mate. It's all part of a plan to prevent inbreeding in captivity. But what delights visitors is watching the curious-looking anteaters flick their two-foot-long tongues. The couple's pup Cyrano, born in D.C. in 2009, was sent back to his parents' Nashville home. A third pup was born in December 2010.
See below to watch our AOL Travel videos from Zoos across the country
When the news was announced that the giant pandas at the National Zoo, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, were granted another five-year leave of absence from China, America rejoiced. On loan from the Chinese government, it is hoped the popular masked symbols of diplomacy will produce a "Made in America" cub. Their previous collaboration, the wildly popular Tai Shan, was just repatriated to his ancestral homeland to find a panda girl of his own.
The Amur leopard is one of the most endangered species on earth, with fewer than 50 Amur leopards left in the wild (they are hunted for their skins and for use in Asian medicines). The captive population of less than 200 Amur leopards in zoos across the country is our last and best hope for preserving the big cat. The Minnesota Zoo has had fantastic success with breeding leopard kittens and loans them liberally. Go to the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon to visit with Boris.
The Las Vegas Zoo started as a pet shop, but kept growing as stage shows left town and left their preforming animals behind. The small desert zoo now gets a helping hand from bigger zoos that lend buzz-worthy animals. San Diego's charismatic Siberian lynx draws a big Vegas crowd to help the zoo raise money for improvements.
The Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Missouri renovated its polar bear exhibit, Polar Bear Passage, but needed an actual polar bear to movie into the fancy new space. So they borrowed 3-year-old Nikita from the Toledo Zoo. Currently, Nikita lives alone (polar bears typically are bachelors at his age), but when he's ready to settle down, he has room in his new 9,500-square-foot home to have a family.
The Knoxville Zoo has mastered the secret of getting red pandas to procreate in captivity -- some 93 red pandas have been born there. Unfortunately, after a few generations in an isolated population, that red panda neighborhood is a little too closely related. The Knoxville Zoo currently hase two female red pandas, Akkali and Kumari, sent from the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand. Bonus: these cuties are now officially U.S. citizens.
Just like humans, zoo animals look for somewhere nice to retire when they get old. Lowland gorilla Timmy is the oldest male gorilla in North America (he was born in the wild in 1959) and had many transfers in his long zoo career. As he aged, he needed a geriatric gorilla group to hang out with. At the Louisville Zoo in Louisville, Kentucky, he got three gorilla girlfriends and celebrated his 50th birthday with an ice sculpture cake made of fruit juice.