11 Animals That Feast Together

Mealtime is a profoundly social activity, and humans aren’t the only species that come together to satiate their nutritional needs. As we prepare to give thanks around heaping tables of festive cooking, let’s consider our friends in the animal kingdom that can also appreciate a meal together.

Lions | 11 Animals That Feast Together

A king may lead a pride of lions, but it’s the females that bring home the actual bacon (aka food). Their smaller and lighter physique makes lionesses more agile and faster when it comes to catching prey. Dinner typically comes at dusk and dawn, after the group takes down and sometimes relocates their meal to a safe spot for feasting.

Zebra | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Herd animals, like zebras, mow the fields together as a group, in part because herd immunity makes larger groups of prey harder to attack. Since zebras are grazing and grinding food for hours each day, their teeth have adapted to grow throughout their lifetime.

Meerkat | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Meerkat mobs understand the value in numbers. Even though individuals typically find their own food, meerkats sometimes share the task of capturing and enjoying larger prey, such as lizards. Let’s be honest—humans typically don’t gather their extended family together for every meal (could you imagine?), but special seasonal moments unite our gang in a similar fashion.

Dholes | Animals That Feast Together

Like other dogs, dholes form super packs that hunt together. Packs range from 5 to 12 members, but sometimes groups will join forces to hunt and share prey before separating into their original smaller packs. This is similar to those distant relatives who come home once or twice a year, if only to score a huge holiday meal.

Gorillas | 11 Animals That Feast Together

In contrast, gorilla troops travel, sleep, and eat together on a regular basis. A gorilla’s diet is made up of primarily plant material, so luckily for them, the forest they call home is like a huge restaurant buffet. Habitat destruction is a major threat facing species like gorillas, so we must work together to preserve the forests these primates and many others feast on.

Orangutan | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Orangutans tend to be more solitary and relaxed than other great ape species, like Thanksgiving dinner party on chill mode. Troop members would rather feed together peacefully, keeping an eye on the youngsters, than swing from tree to tree in search of fruit.

Elephants | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Like gorillas, elephants live in close social groups and graze for browse together to satisfy their healthy appetites. Unlike other mammals, elephants grow throughout their lifetime, so you can imagine how large their habitat needs to be. And like gorilla habitats, we have to do a better job at protecting these areas.

Spotted hyenas | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Spotted hyenas do more than just scavenge for meals together. The bigger the clan, the larger its prey—including young rhinos, wildebeests, zebras, and cape buffalo. After they bag a meal, hyenas bring new meaning to the phrase “lick the plate clean” and eat practically every part of the animal, including the skin, hooves, bone, and teeth. Yum!

Vultures | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Vultures tend to look at any meal as a Thanksgiving meal, because they never know when or where the next one will take place. Once carrion is located, the information is relayed quickly and quietly to surrounding birds, and masses land to join the feast. For nature’s cleanup crew, you don’t want to be the last to the table.

Flamingos | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Flamingos may be pretty in pink, but large swaths of birds, sometimes referred to as a flamboyance, share the same shallow muck during mealtimes. In other words, every bird double dips. Their eating habits involve a lot of backwash, but their bills are specifically designed to filter out mud and trap tiny morsels, including algae, diatoms, and small aquatic crustaceans.

Przewalski's horse | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Mongolian wild horses, aka Przewalski’s horses, live in distinct social groups that spend large amounts of time grooming one another. When they aren’t reinforcing social bonds and keeping each other clean and tidy, members all graze and rest together, too.


Join the conversation: Which animals would you add to this list of social eaters?


Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 14 Adorable Baby Animal Facts.


Mane-ly Lions


Izu’s lush mane adds to his impressive and  regal bearing.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to nine Transvaal lions. In standard zoo record keeping, they are listed as 3.6 lions. That does not mean that we have three and a half lions, but rather 3 males and 6 female lions. Lions are one of the most well known examples of sexual dimorphism, meaning that the two sexes look different from one another. This can refer to a difference in size, coloration, or ornamentation. In the case of lions, only the males develop a mane around their head and neck.

A lion’s mane serves many purposes. The appearance of a mane, including the color and size of it, communicates to females that that particular male is strong and able to provide for his pride. In the same sense, a lion’s mane also lets outside males know that he will be able to defend his pride from rival lions. Should two males fight for the right to breed with females, the thick mane helps protect the head from injury.


Two-year-old Ken’s mane is growing in nicely. (Click image to enlarge)

At the Safari Park, we have three male lions in different stages of mane development. Our oldest male Izu, will be 12 years old in November. His mane is fully developed and is very striking. As male lions age, their mane gets darker in color. Ken will be two years old in December and has recently started to develop some coloration around his neck and the top of his head. His mane hair is getting longer and will continue to fill out until he is about five years old. Ernest turned one year old this past June and has already started to develop his mane. He has no dark coloration yet, but the hair around his chest is longer than that of his sisters, making it much easier to tell him apart. Be sure to stop by Lion Camp to check out these impressive hair dos!

Lacey Byrnes is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.


10 Cats You Shouldn’t Cuddle With

There’s no doubt that domestic cats are cute and cuddly, but when it comes to their wild brothers and sisters, we strongly advise keeping your hands to yourself.

Connor by Darrell Ybarrondo

photo: Darrell Ybarrondo

With two- to three-inch long canine teeth, Connor would rather chow down than cuddle with you.

Jaguar by Bob Worthington

photo: Bob Worthington

We suggest you steer clear of Nindiri, or suffer the same fate as this poor rabbit.

Serval by Ion Moe

photo: Ion Moe

Kamari might look cute, but servals are perhaps the best hunters in the cat world. They make a kill in about half of all tries, which means you probably wouldn’t survive a snuggle session.

Snow leopard

The legendary snow leopard is rarely seen by humans. Cuddling with one? Don’t kid yourself.

Sumatran tiger

One look at Teddy and you know he isn’t in the mood for some TLC.

Cheetah by Stephen Moehle

photo: Stephen Moehle

With the ability to reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of this cheetah’s gaze.

Fishing cat by Bob Worthington

photo: Bob Worthington

If you’re thinking “Aw, this looks just like my fluffy Felix,” think again—fishing cats can be very aggressive.


Izu barely has enough patience for his cubs, so he probably isn’t interested in your warm embrace either.

Oshana by Ion Moe

photo: Ion Moe

The same is true for Oshana.

photo: Deric Wagner

photo: Deric Wagner

Mountain lion, puma, cougar, panther—this cat is known by more names than just about any other mammal—”cuddle buddy” isn’t one of them.


Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 11 Incredibly Awesome Animal Moms.


11 Incredibly Awesome Animal Moms

While baby business in the natural world differs across species, one thing for certain is the fact that moms are awesome. So today, we’re celebrating some of the best mothers we’ve recently observed at the Zoo and Safari Park.


The heartwarming bond between Imani and Joanne is a wonderful sight, especially given this little gorilla’s story.


7-year-old Nindiri gave birth to her third cub on March 12, 2015. The healthy cub still needs a name, vote for your favorite here.


Funani is very protective of her latest baby and has kept her calf so close that animal keepers have not been able to determine yet if the calf is male or female.


This little piggy went to the market… these little red river piglets were born at the Safari Park last month.


Sisquoc and Shatash’s new condor chick hatched on April 11 is very valuable to the condor population.


When baby Denny arrived in December 2014, first-time mother Jessica naturally rose to the occasion of raising her youngster.

Onshe gave birth to her first curious kitten last October. Kamari’s cuteness can be seen in the Zoo’s Kopje area.


Oshana the African lioness has had her paws full taking care of a cute quartet of cubs.


First-time mother Addison also welcomed a cute quartet of spots last summer. Keepers describe Addison as an excellent mom, calm, confident and extremely protective.


Petunia, born on August 1, 2014 to mother Tayana, was the 67th greater one-horned rhino to be born at the Park since 1975.


A rare white ellipsen waterbuck calf named Luke stood out among his her, but his mother kept a close watch on her youngster.


Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 24 Rhino Facts You Should Know.


11 Bellies You Really Need To Rub

Disclaimer: These are wild animals, and must be treated as such. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. :)

You know you really want to rub this little spotted belly…

Photo by Cheryl Thiele

Photo by Cheryl Thiele

and this meer belly…

Photo by Helene Hoffman

Photo by Helene Hoffman

and this Andean bear belly…

Photo by Craig Chaddock

Photo by Craig Chaddock

and this polar pot belly…

and this panda paunch.

Aisha’s little red tummy is just asking for a good rub.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Jaguar cub Maderas (born at the Zoo in 2012) had perhaps the most rub-able belly of all.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

But Nindiri’s latest cub definitely gives Maderas a run for her money in the belly department.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

When Mr. Wu was a cub had the cutest panda pot belly ever.

And he still does.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Joanne’s fuzzy little tummy is just screaming “rub me!”

Just look at it.

Photo by Angie Bell

Photo by Angie Bell

Lion cubs Ken & Dixie were not lacking in the cute belly department.


Izu seems to disagree.

But seriously, Mr. Wu just might be the winner of cutest belly ever.

Case in point.

Actually, maybe it’s a tie.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

Yep, definitely a tie.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde


Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 7 Animals That Look Like Star Wars Characters.


Best of Vine: Safari Park

Nothing says cute like 6-second animal clips! Follow the Safari Park on Vine for more adorable fun.

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. See her previous post, DIY Succulent Centerpiece.


13 Animals Grumpier Than Grumpy Cat

Because Tardar Sauce isn’t the only one with grouchy facial expressions…

This mountain lion is ready to pick a fight.


photo: Darrell Ybarrondo

And this tiger wants your kid to stop tapping on the glass.


photo: Ion Moe

Benzy the honey badger just doesn’t care.


And guess what? This lemur is not impressed with your fancy camera lens.


photo: Ion Moe

Did they seriously just call me a bear? Ugh.


Don’t these hairless primates know it’s rude to point and stare? Lettuce eat.


photo: Helene Hoffman

This vulture chick doesn’t care about Internet stardom.

Rueppell's vulture chick

And Nindiri has the grumpy cat look down.


photo: Mollie Rivera

But this white-faced saki owns it.

White-faced saki

No feline is more upset than Oshana trying to raise four cubs.


photo: Bob Worthington

Except maybe this cougar.


photo: Craig Chaddock

This is a capuchin’s “happy face.”

Capuchin monkey

And this lion-tailed macaque is smiling for the camera… j/k.

Lion-tailed macaque

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom.


Are You Over Valentine’s Day? This Might Look Familiar.

Valentine’s Day just isn’t your thing. Honestly? Because you’re just not that into it.

Photo by Ion Moe

Photo by Ion Moe

And you’re not really a fan of “getting all cleaned up” for that big date.

Photo by Ion Moe

Photo by Ion Moe

You’re also not big on PDA, like holding hands (or tails).

And you’re definitely not a hugger.


And if you see one more candy heart with a generic love message on it you’re going to lose it!


And chocolates? Meh. They kind of make you gag.

Photo by Sayuri

Photo by Sayuri

When you get the bill after a super fancy dinner you can barely hide your shock.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

Because you’re easy to please. You don’t need some fancy meal. You’re fine eating what you always do.

Photo by Mollie Rivera

Photo by Mollie Rivera

And honestly, you’re not a big fan of crowds anyway.


You’d just rather stay in and relax.

Photo by Helene Hoffman

Photo by Helene Hoffman

And hang out with your boo, just the two of you, just how you like it. Because that’s what Valentine’s Day should be. No stress, no obligation, just love.

Photo by Darrell Ybarrondo

Photo by Darrell Ybarrondo

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Animals Who Totally Own Winter.




Wild Romance

Anytime is the right time for "romance" among rhinos.

Anytime is the right time for “romance” among rhinos.

“There’s a rhyme and reason to the wild outdoors,” sings Elton John in The Lion King. Disney’s Simba and Nala aren’t the only ones who “can feel the love tonight” during the Valentine’s Day season. Perhaps you want to know about the wacky, wild, and sometimes familiar romance rituals of the Safari Park animals? During this season of love, now’s your chance.

Some of the largest lovers at the Safari Park are southern white rhinos. Instead of mating seasonally like deer, breeding females can go into estrus any time of the year. Solitary, territorial males horn-wrestle one another for the privilege of mating with an estrus female. The winner approaches his intended mate with a wheezy, hic-throb noise—kind of a “Hey baby. How you doin’?” a la Friends character Joey Tribbiani. In an attempt at seduction, the male rests his head on the female’s rump. If she’s willing, mating lasts about 30 minutes. Over the years, “love” has definitely been in the air among the southern white rhinos at the Safari Park: they have produced 93 calves and counting.

Get the Party Started: Once their courtship ritual is rolling, all the flamingos in this flock will have their wings out.

Get the Party Started: Wing-spreading is one part of a flamingo flock’s courtship ritual.

In contrast to the rhinos’ cumbersome courtship, greater flamingos look like a precision drum line during their elaborate courtship rituals. The flamingo colony, or flamboyance, marches together in shallow water while honking, abruptly switching directions. The birds also head-flag, rhythmically turning their heads side-to-side, and salute each other with outstretched wings to display their contrasting colors. When a female finds a desirable male, she leaves the flamboyance and heads to slightly deeper water. The male vaults onto the female’s back and plants his feet on her wing joints, followed by an acrobatic dismount over her head. After mating, the pair begins building a volcano-shaped mud nest. Females lay a single egg, and both parents take turns incubating it for 28-32 days. Flamingo mating is seasonal, occurring during the rainy season to take advantage of the abundant food and mud.

Unlike flamingos, African lions don’t have a breeding season. Instead, mating usually occurs when a male assumes control of a pride. Lionesses only have a four to seven day estrus window, and the male makes the most of it. Although lions are world-renowned for their marathon sleep sessions, they also break records in the mating category. Lions usually mate for eight to 68 seconds at a time every 25 minutes over a four-day period; pairs may mate up to 100 times in one day! During this time, the male guards the female to keep the competition away. If the mating is successful, three and a half months later the female delivers a litter of one to four cubs. The females in a pride communally nurse their cubs for about seven months.

It may look like he's blowing a kiss, but this male is checking to see if the female is ready to mate.

It may look like he’s blowing a kiss, but this male is checking to see if the female is ready to mate.

While lions have some of the longest mating sessions in the animal kingdom, giraffes have some of the shortest. Copulation lasts barely a second, but it’s no “stretch” to say that giraffes are foreplay nerds. Interested males practically do a litmus test to evaluate females! A male closely follows an estrus female, waiting for the right moment to nudge her hind leg—her cue to urinate. Next, he sips a sample of the urine and curls his upper lip, opening the Jacobson’s organ on the roof of his mouth in a behavior called the Flehmen response. This allows him to test the female’s hormone levels to see if she is ready to breed—picture a connoisseur sampling a fine wine.

This year, forget the fancy dinner and flowers for Valentine’s Day. Come to the Safari Park and marvel at wild romance. Maybe you’ll even imagine strains of Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” playing in the background…

Elise Newman is a Caravan Safari guide at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gaur Game Plan.


Ken and Dixie’s Bite Club

An African lion’s life is typically all about sleeping, napping and resting… but that isn’t necessarily true for the Safari Park’s Lion Camp rock stars. Ken and Dixie managed to start a secret Bite Club in their spare time. Keep reading for the official rules.

The 1st rule of Bite Club is, you don’t talk about Bite Club.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Ion Moe

The 2nd rule is, you DO NOT talk about Bite Club.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

A few practice chomps or chews are permitted before the bite begins.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Bob Worthington

Stalking your bite is optional.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Angie Bell

If a cub taps out or keepers call for lunch, the bite is over.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Two cubs to a bite.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

No paws, no cheap shots.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Bites will go on as long as they have to.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

No enrichment or outside items.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club



Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

If this is your first time at Bite Club, you have to bite.


Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Nathan Rupert

For more lion cub fun, watch the video below.

*Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global.